Lawyering is a humble profession. It is the art of ‘pleading’. It is a lifetime of making submissions. It starts with ‘Respectfully Sheweth’ and concludes in a ‘humble prayer’. Not to the person sitting in robes at a high pedestal, but instead to the majesty of law’s empire. Because, how else can an individual appear before the seat of justice, except in utmost humility and reverence?

Today, however, in stark juxtaposition to this ethos of modesty, there are those in our bar who have turned belligerence and derision of the bench, into a successful model for their legal practice. This brand of lawyers, who specialize in ‘taking on’ the bench (frequently, for no reason at all) have converted their impudence into an art form that is devoid of all understanding and appreciation for the law itself.

Unfortunately – in fact very sadly – in the recent past, none other than a former judge of the honorable Lahore High Court, who has also served as Attorney General of Pakistan, Mr. Irfan Qadir, has come to champion this nefarious creed.

Personally, despite being a fervent advocate of judicial restraint, and the idea that ‘contempt of Court’ should be used in exceptionally sparing circumstances, it is impossible to disagree with the nine page order of the honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan, dated 26th March, 2015, (in the case concerning purchase of armored personnel carriers by Sindh Police), through which Mr. Irfan Qadir’s license to practice before the honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan has been suspended.

Through the order, a three member bench of the honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan, headed by Mr. Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, enumerates how Mr. Irfan Qadir appeared before the honorable Court for twelve hearings in the said case, without ever having sought the requisite authorization from any Advocate on Record (as mandated by Rules 6 and 15 of Order IV of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980). The Supreme Court observed that, when confronted with this defect in his standing, Mr. Irfan Qadir, showed no signs of humility or willingness to remedy the fault. Using it as a flashpoint (not that he needed one), Mr. Irfan Qadir “launched into a harangue and tirade”, which has become all but a signature move by this former Attorney General, as painstakingly recounted by the honorable Supreme Court in its judgment. Consequently, the honorable Court observed that Mr. Irfan Qadir’s behavior was “not conducive to the proper administration of justice”, was “prohibited” by the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973, and therefore warranted a suspension of his license to practice before the Supreme Court, under Rule 30 of Order IV of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980.

But prior to reaching this conclusion, the honorable Court recounts numerous instances when Mr. Irfan Qadir, even during his tenure as Prosecutor General NAB and as the Attorney General of Pakistan, showed belligerence and disdain in the face of the Court. Quoting passages from reported judgments, including, Chaudhary Muhammad Ashraf Gujjar Vs. Riaz Hussain (2013 SCMR 161), Bank of Punjab Vs. Haris Steel Industries (Pvt.) Ltd (PLD 2010 SC 1109), Arsalan Iftikhar Vs Riaz Hussain (PLD 2012 SC 903), and Hamid Mir Vs Federation of Pakistan, etc (Constitution Petition No. 105/2012), the honorable Court noted that Mr. Irfan Qadir has exhibited suspicious inclinations towards litigants, instead of conducting himself as a dispassionate (constitutional) officer of the Court. The Honorable Court noted that Mr. Irfan Qadir has repeatedly “display[ed] a pattern and a mindset which is not at all conducive to the honor and dignity of the court”. Consequently, the honorable Court felt “compelled” to suspend Mr. Irfan Qadir’s license, and issued him a show cause notice “as to why he should not be removed from practice” as an advocate of the honorable Supreme Court.

The core issue is not that of Mr. Irfan Qadir as an individual, but of the deeper malaise that he has come to symbolize. This brand of lawyering, which stems from insatiable roots of personal ego, and feeds upon the resulting publicity, now perseveres throughout our legal system, from the District Courts to the Honorable Supreme Court.

Mr. Irfan Qadir is only the tip of that vicious sword, which is close to piercing the very heart of our justice system. His actions are no different, in spirit, than those of the lawyers who thrashed the Sessions Judge of Lahore, or from the ones who manhandled a District Judge in Faisalabad, or ransacked the courtroom of the Chief Justice of the honorable Lahore High Court.

Sadly, during the Lawyer’s Movement, it was deemed ‘ethical’ for members of the bar to openly (and scathingly) criticize members of the judiciary. We created a culture, within the bar, that considered belligerence to be bravado; disdain to be virtuous; and contempt to be heroic. Ever since, even after restoration of the judiciary, pockets within the bar have continued to demonstrate a penchant for assaulting the court, as the final recourse for redressal of their grievances. And this inclination, this rebuke of deference to the law and the seat of justice, is now a signature for many a members of the bar.

With all the talk, these days, about defending the integrity of our courts and upholding the empire of law, against ambush from political actors and media personnel, not enough attention is being paid to protecting our paradigm of justice from the very officers of the court.

Reform of bar practices – and much more importantly, the bar culture! – is a taboo idea within our legal fraternity. It is an idea that threatens individual fiefdoms within the bar. And for this reason, above all, there is no real impetus to implement concerted reforms in this regard.

But the bar must begin the internal journey of grasping an incontrovertible truth: that till such time members of the bar continue to show disrespect and disdain for the bench, and for the majesty of law itself, there can be no hope of infusing the larger sense of ‘rule of law’ within our society. Till such time that Mr. Irfan Qadir, and others, are allowed to persist with their belligerence, and hailed as symbols of intrepid advocacy, there is no future for ‘supremacy of law’ in this land.

Reform of this bar culture, like charity, must begin at home. And the process must begin yesterday.