LAHORE: A full bench of the Lahore High Court ordered Punjab Advocate General Ahmed Awais to submit a reply to a show cause notice issued to him under the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2002. He was told to reply by April 4 over his allegedly contemptuous conduct during the announcement of an interim order over a joint investigation team (JIT), formed by the government, for a fresh probe into the 2014 Model Town massacre.
As proceedings commenced, former presidents of the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) Chaudhary Zolifqar Ali, Shafqat Chohan, Asghar Ali Gill and others took to the rostrum and told the court that they had appeared to resolve the matter. The lawyers asserted that none of them wanted any further complications in the case.
Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan, who was heading the bench, asked of the whereabouts of the AGP. To this, former LHCBA president Chaudhary Zolifqar Ali pointed out that the AGP had not been directed to appear in person before the court.
Another former LHCBA president, Advocate Shafqat Chohan, told the court that lawyers wanted to resolve the issue rather than getting involved in confrontation. He added the AGP’s intention was never to pass any contemptuous remarks as he “is a very humble person and does not want to disgrace the courts”.
Justice Qasim said the AGP should have been present in the courtroom. Responding, Advocate Zolifqar stressed that the contempt notice should not have been issued against the AGP. He added if the bar and bench maintained estranged relations, then the worst set of circumstances will prevail.
Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan quipped and asked if the advocate was threatening the court, while Justice Aalia Neelum also reacted to the comment. She said on the one hand, Zolifqar’s was saying that his side wanted to resolve the matter, while on the other, he was warning that matters may take a turn for the worst.
Other lawyers, including Chaudary Asghar Gill, intervened to calm the atmosphere and asked the court to exercise tolerance. Justice Qasim said that they had not witnessed the scenes on the day the AGP issued his contemptuous remarks.
“What sort of message did the AGP want to give to junior councils present in the court by misbehaving?” he asked. Justice Qasim further said some decisions go in lawyers’ favour and some against, but that was not a licence to treat the courts with disrespect.
After a short while, the AGP appeared before the bench. Advocate Asghar Gill asked the court to be tolerant in case of a contemptuous remark, but his comment became a laughing stock in the court room. Justice Qasim was among those who afforded himself a chuckle.
AGP Ahmed Awais also said he could not even think of disgracing the court or passing contemptuous remarks against the judiciary. However, the bench fixed April 4 as the date to submit a reply.
The bench issued notices to the provincial government and sought its reply by April 11 on the main petition against the new JIT for a fresh probe into the Model Town massacre. The bench also issued notices to the JIT members and sought their reply by the said date.
On March 22, a full bench, by a majority of two to one judges, suspended the operation of an impugned notification of the Punjab government under which a new Joint Investigation Team (JIT) had been formed for a fresh probe into the 2014 Model Town massacre. The notification would be suspended until a final decision on the main writ petition.
The bench in mentioned that Punjab Advocate General Ahmad Awais, along with dozens of law officers, appeared in court and took possession of the rostrum. The AGP started shouting that the court could not pass an interim order without giving him the opportunity of a hearing. He further stated that he was planning to boycott proceedings of this court.
The AGP was warned time and again to control his volume, but he and other law officers kept on shouting in court and tried to pressurise the bench. “The conduct of the AGP and other law officers before this court is highly contemptuous,” the court said.
“It is further evident that conduct of the AGPis highly contemptuous, therefore, he is directed to submit a reply as to why contempt proceedings, under sections 3 and 5 of the Contempt of Court Ordinance, 2002, read with Article 204 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973, should not be initiated against him.”
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