On Friday, the Supreme Court issued a detailed order suspending the licence of former Attorney General Irfan Qadir for persistently failing to maintain the courtroom decorum.

Sparring between a judge and a lawyer in a court of law is a fascinating but rare sight in legal practice. However, former attorney general Mr. Irfan Qadir’s fascination appears to have adopted it as a matter of policy, especially in high profile cases involving Supreme Court’s activist judges. This streak has been particularly evident since he was appointed Attorney General in April 2012 (an office he held until the change of government in June 2013) to defend the Zardari government against a hostile Chaudhry Court.

Usually, it is the responsibility of lawyers’ own councils and associations to discipline lawyers admitted into practice. However, the Supreme Court seems to have acted against the prevalent norm by taking the matter into its own hands in case of Mr. Qadir. Further, this incident comes in the wake of several hearings by the Supreme Court in recent months, with Justice Khawaja on the bench, questioning several high court bar associations regarding their disciplinary control over their members.

These latter hearings having revealed that bar associations act rarely, if at all, to disbar one of their members. Except perhaps lawyers with fake degrees, the bar associations have reportedly condoned even incidents of criminal violence and negligence by lawyers inside and outside the courtrooms, regardless of the costs of such violence and negligence to the dignity of the court or the welfare of clients. Strikes by lawyers are a matter of routine rather than exception in our court houses.

It is sad to see infighting in a court of law where people go to seek resolution of their disputes. The political or emotional sensitivity of the matter, or of the judges and lawyers involved, should never be allowed to outweigh the dictates of due process and justice for the parties involved.

Suspension of Mr. Qadir’s licence to practice law must therefore be seen as a strong signal from the Supreme Court in the direction of professional accountability of lawyers. If the lawyer’s organizations do not demonstrate their will, ability and readiness to discipline their members at all levels of judicial hierarchy, the Court might be compelled to extend its jurisdiction over complaints of misconduct by lawyers.