ISLAMABAD - By terming February 28 as “Black Day” in judicial history of Pakistan, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Friday restored the licenses of lawyers allegedly involved in storming the judicial compound on that day.

A three-member larger bench of the IHC comprising Chief Justice of IHC Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb conducted hearing of the complaint filed by the IHC Registrar wherein it had suspended the licenses of 23 lawyers.

The IHC bench also directed the IHC Registrar to send complaints to Pakistan Bar Council with respect to those advocates who are enrolled with Pakistan Bar Council and with respect to others to Islamabad Bar Council or other provincial Bar Councils with which the referred advocates are enrolled.

It further said, “The Registrar shall also send along with the complaints all the incriminating material that is available with the Court.”

“Needless to observe that Bar Councils shall act in accordance with law by providing opportunity of hearing to the advocates as envisaged in section 41 ibid and keeping in view the mandate of fair trial as enshrined in Article 10-A of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973. 22. The Bar Councils shall not be prejudiced by observations made hereinabove,” maintained the IHC bench.

The bench noted that though they had suspended the licenses, under section 54 of the Act, of a number of advocates/respondents, who are facing the allegation of misconduct yet they deem appropriate to recall the order for suspension of their licenses.

It added, “We are unable to agree with contention of Mr. Shoaib Shaheen, ASC that the instant proceedings have become infructuous, as period of ninety days has expired within which the complaints were to be sent to the Bar Councils in as much as the same is not supported by law. 

Sections 41 & 54 of the Act provide nothing to the effect that complaints have to be sent and decided within ninety days which is the maximum period for suspension of license of an Advocate.”

It further said that taking stock of the matter and pursuant to provisions of law, they deem appropriate that cases of respondents be referred to the Bar Councils for initiation of proceedings against them. “Thus the instant matters are disposed of with direction to the Registrar of this Court to send complaints to Pakistan Bar Council with respect to those advocates,” added the bench.

The court observed in its verdict, “February 8th, 2021 shall always be remembered as a Black Day in the judicial history of Pakistan; on the said date, a considerable number of lawyers left the vicinity of F-8 Katchery Islamabad in the early working hours and stormed the High Court building at about 10:30 a.m.; they pelted stones and hurled plants-pots at the Chief Justice Block and subsequently broke in and forced the Chief Justice and subsequently other Judges in the former’s chambers in state of being captive; the captivity continued for almost the entire working day and ended, after law enforcement agencies, were called in.”

It stated that subsequent to the “event,” the Registrar, Islamabad High Court, based on CCTV footages and other information received from eye-witnesses, lodged complaints before this Court naming a number of lawyers involved in the incident and citing the relevant law in seeking approval for further action under sections 41 & 54 of the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973 (the Act).

“The call for accountability, in every profession, is gaining voice in the present times; the legal profession should not remain exception. The regulator has to play an active role in maintaining positive image of the Advocates, which is at par with past glories of legal fraternity. The failure to self-evaluate and hold the peers accountable would result in not only lowering of standards of the profession but also undermining the confidence of the public in already dwindling perceptions regarding the legal community,” said the IHC judgment. 

It continued that the relationship between Bar and the Bench ought to remain cordial and the two cannot be regarded as separate entities; this is the reason that it is said that Bar and Bench are two wheels of same chariot. In any way, the system for appointment of judges in Civil Courts, District and Sessions Court or the High Courts is made from practicing lawyers, hence it can safely be said that Bar or the legal profession is the nursery for future Bench.

It maintained that in past, there have been incidents all over Pakistan regarding individual professional misconduct or otherwise acts of misconduct or a conduct unbecoming of an advocate, however, the act or incident involving such large number of advocates of the Supreme Court as well as High Court, is unprecedented, hence an appropriate action is required on part of the regulator against those who are responsible for the same.