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Bar Vs Bench

Wouldn’t it be better if Sher Zaman appeared before the Court?

Not to surrender or accept defeat, but solely to contest jurisdiction of the Court.

In every system of government throughout the world, there exists a legal system which ensures enforcement of the rights of the citizenry. The legal system primarily consists of the judiciary and the lawyers or as we say the bar and the bench. It is undisputed that a lawyer is part of the system and is, indeed, an officer of the court. However, as a matter of necessary precaution, the bench commands high degree of respect as compared to the bar. There is a reason that a lawyer humbly submits himself to the court and bows in respect. Not to the individual occupying the chair but rather to the chair itself.

For the past one month, the legal fraternity of Pakistan – specifically Punjab – is centre stage. A member of the bar namely, Sher Zaman Qureshi, and another member of the bench, Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan, were daggers drawn at each other over an altercation inside the courtroom. Keeping aside the merits of the situation and what actually happened or not, there are certain norms and principles that should be and must be respected at all costs.

Firstly, if a judge over-reaches his authority and passes orders not mandated by law, then there is a remedy available for it. Ideally speaking the members of the bar instead of taking to the corridors and ransacking the very institution they themselves represent, should have filed a reference before the supreme judicial council against the said member of the bench whom they allege to have been responsible for the altercation in Multan. After all, in their day-to-day practice it is submitted to the court that “there is no other efficacious remedy available to the aggrieved except to invoke jurisdiction of this Court” whenever filing any suit. Then why not apply the same to themselves before taking irrational measures.

Before resorting to protest and chaos at the High Court, it would have been preferable if the constitutional jurisdiction of the Apex Court was invoked earlier on, or even if references were filed against the said judges. Only after exhausting all possible remedies should have they taken to the streets.

Regrettably enough, my learned brothers of the bar chose the option of protesting against the judiciary and burnt effigies of the same member of the bench and also the Chief Justice Lahore High Court. It didn’t stop here, my dear brothers further went on to demonstrate their audacity inside the Chief’s courtroom whilst contempt proceedings against Sher Zaman were underway. Our pitiful friends flouting black coats chanted “Go Mansoor Go” in an attempt to intimidate the judiciary with their strength. Another painful reminder of the Sajjad Ali Shah episode in the ninety’s. What was more daunting here is the fact that this wasn’t an attack by a politically charged and motivated crowd, but rather a show put up by, supposedly, educated officers of the court.

In spite of all these actions and display of literacy by the men and women in black, they continue to remain adamant on their stance and are contemplating ways to disrupt the contempt proceedings by the larger bench. Wouldn’t it be better if Sher Zaman appeared before the Court? Not to surrender or accept defeat, but solely to contest jurisdiction of the Court. It is indeed true that a license to practice can only be revoked by the respective bar council. A show of grace to protect the sanctity of the institution would have been a humble appearance before the Court and then assisting the bench by pleading that the same proceedings were contrary to the provisions of law.

As claimed if the bar members are surely conversant with the law then they should also be equally conversant with the ethics required to practice of law. Relatively speaking the advocates of law should be above personal egoistical incidents and preserve the sanctity of the institution they themselves are part of.

As reiterated by certain senior members of the legal fraternity, our judiciary is already being made controversial and is being targeted by political pundits. If we ourselves will not keep aside our differences and stand united then unfortunately this institution will me in shambles at the behest of the politicians of the country amongst others. After all it is the members of the bar who fought courageously against dictatorship and ensured independence of the judiciary of Pakistan. It is deplorable to see the lawyers’ movement going to waste even more ironically at the hands of lawyers themselves.

On the contrary, it is expected of a judge to be wise in his decisions as well as observations made within the court. Abusing the seat they occupy isn’t what is expected of a member of the bench, especially as the chair he occupies is a constitutionally established one. It is undeniable that a vast majority of the judges over-step either in their decisions or their comments passed in open court. What needs to be understood is “give respect, take respect” after all the lawyers and judges are simply two sides of the rostrum. Precisely why, it is said that a lawyer merely ‘assists’ the court in reaching a decision.

If hypothetically a lawyer misbehaves with the judge, then the best possible option would be to refer him to his respective bar council for further action. Judicial activism, that too, against the same bar they had been a part of isn’t a commendable step on part of the judiciary. Every institution should remain within their limits as proscribed by the constitution and the law.

In spite of all of the above, it needs to be understood by the public at large that the protesting bar members, seemingly quite impressed by Eminem, represent only a segment within the bar and, therefore, should not be confused as representation on behalf of the entire legal fraternity.

It is high time that the advocates for the rule of law step out of their Whatsapp groups and take an active role in bar politics and protect sanctity of both the bar and the bench. If it’s the illiterate class’s fault then I consider the literate class to be equally responsible. Refusing to step forward only creates a vacuum which is inherently filled by the “Wukla-biradri”

Gardezi, Kaswar. Bar Vs Bench. Pakistan Today, August 28, 2017.

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