Advocate General Punjab gets second chance to defend contempt allegations

Full bench gives another opportunity to submit comprehensive reply

Our Correspondent April 06, 2019
Lahore High Court. PHOTO: EXPRESS

LAHORE: A full bench of the Lahore High Court gave a second opportunity to Advocate General Punjab (AGP) Ahmed Awais to submit a comprehensive reply to a show cause notice issued to him under the Contempt of Court Ordinance 2002. The court reminded the AGP that he was only required to submit three lines in his response.

The alleged contemptuous conduct of the AGP’s was witnessed during the announcement of an interim court order which suspended the notification of a joint investigation team (JIT), formed by the government, for a fresh probe into the 2014 Model Town incident. The bench, headed by Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan, did not seem satisfied over the replies submitted by AGP Ahmed Awais on April 4 and April 5. The bench fixed April 11 as the submission date for a detailed reply.

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As proceedings commenced on Friday, the head of the bench told PTI leader and senior lawyer Hamid Ali Khan that he (Hamid) had been told on Thursday that there was no need for a detailed reply and only three lines were needed. “You people are aware of the meaning of three lines,” the judge said.

Advocate Hamid Ali Khan, representing AGP Awais, pleaded with the court that his client had a lot of respect of the judiciary and would never do anything to disrespect the courts. He requested the court to put an end of the matter. To this, Justice Aalia Neelum remarked the judges also wanted to resolve the matter, but they had been told on Thursday that Hamid Khan would outline the difference between being loud and shouting.

Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmed Khan asked if lawyers should be allowed to do as they please. He quoted the examples of PML-N leaders Danyal Aziz and Nihal Hashmi who went to jail over contemptuous conduct. He pointed out that in this case, people would question judges if there was a separate set of rules for lawyers.

Advocate Hamid Ali Khan said that was a separate matter, adding the AGP had tried to emphasise a point in court, while the PML-N leaders held press conferences to speak against the judiciary. Justice Aalia Neelum said lawyers emphasise different matters in courts, but the AGP’s case did not have a basis or a point for emphasis.

The counsel for the AGP reiterated that lawyers maintained great respect for the courts and stressed that the matter be resolved at the soonest as it was a matter of bar and bench. To this, Justice Qasim refused to agree that it was a matter of bar and bench. Justice Malik Shahzad, meanwhile, said that seeking a pardon would not lessen anyone’s dignity. “If I make a mistake and tender apologise [for it], it will not lessen my dignity”.

The AGP allegedly yelled in the court when the bench, on March 22, with a majority view of two to one judges, suspended the operation of an impugned notification of the Punjab government. Under the notification, a new JIT had been formed for a fresh probe into the 2014 Model Town massacre. The notification was suspended until a final decision on the main writ petition of the case.

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The bench, in its order, mentioned that Advocate General Punjab Ahmad Awais, along with dozens of law officers, appeared in court and took possession of the rostrum. “The AGP started shouting that this court could not pass any interim order without affording him the opportunity of a hearing.”

He was warned time and again to control his volume, but he and other law officers kept shouting in court and tried pressurise it into announcing an order in his favour. “The conduct of AGP and other law officers before this court is highly contemptuous. 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, may not be initiated against him.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2019.

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