LAHORE: The tussle between the Bar and the Bench over disciplinary action against lawyers by the Lahore High Court took an ugly turn on Saturday when a lawyers’ convention demanded resignation of Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.
The basis for the demand was that the chief justice had taken “administrative decisions on political grounds” and “committed misconduct”.
A resolution carried at the charged convention asked the chief justice to dissolve the high court supervisory committee forthwith and withdraw its all decisions including suspension of an advocate’s licence on the allegation of professional misconduct.
The convention also called for an amendment to the Legal Practitioners & Bar Council Act 1973 to repeal its section 54, which empowers the Supreme Court and high courts to suspend licence of a lawyer for professional misconduct.
It also rejected the names of nominees forwarded to the Judicial Commission by the chief justice for vacant slots of judges in the high court and demanded that the commission make its process more transparent.
Pakistan Bar Council Vice-Chairman Dr Farogh Naseem, its members Maqsood Buttar, Ishtiaq A. Khan, Rasheed A. Rizvi, Shoaib Shaheen, Abdul Sattar Khan, Punjab Bar Council Vice-Chairman Muhammad Hussain, its executive committee chairman Mumtaz Mustafa, Supreme Court Bar Association President Syed Ali Zafar, Lahore High Court Bar Association President Rana Zia Abdul Rehman and Lahore Bar Association President Arshad Jahangir Jhojha were among the prominent speakers at the event.
Mr Naseem said the section 54 of the act was liable to be repealed as it was against the independence of the bar. He said if a lawyer misbehaved with a judge in reaction to the judge’s ‘misbehaviour’, the bar would stand by its member. “We know the meaning of independence of the bar and the bench,” he said.
Mr Mustafa alleged that one of nominees (from the district judiciary) forwarded to the Judicial Commission by the high court slot was facing charges of misconduct. He said the chief justice was no more competent to remain in the office and should resign.
Other speakers also dubbed the high court supervisory committee unlawful and said court had no jurisdiction to interfere in the bar affairs. They said the bar had its own mechanism and powers for accountability of its members and the high court chief justice should hold accountability of his own institution.
SCBA President Ali Zafar, when contacted by Dawn, dissociated him from the convention’s demand for the chief justice’s resignation which, he said, was irrational.
He claimed that he had left the convention before the resolution was approved.
Later in the evening, Farogh Naseem and other leaders met Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and other judges.
The meeting resolved to reach a consensus mechanism for future functioning of the high court supervisory committee, said a press release issued by the LHC media cell.
In one case, the seven-judge supervisory committee had suspended licence of Lahore Bar Association Vice-President Rana Saeed Anwar while hearing a complaint filed by an additional district and sessions judge.
The lawyer, who did not appear before the committee, was accused of misbehaving with the judge and snatching files.