SC dismisses petition seeking law minister’s removal from PBC

Published: May 16, 2019
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Barrister Farogh Naseem. PHOTO: FILE

Barrister Farogh Naseem. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has thrown away a constitution petition submitted by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) seeking the removal of Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem from the council because of his ministerial position.

PBC is an apex body of lawyers consisting of 23 members, who are elected from all provincial bar councils as well as the Islamabad Bar Council for five years. Currently, 13 members are from the Asma Jahangir Lawyers Group and 11 from the Hamid Khan Lawyers Group.

Naseem, who was elected as a PBC member from Sindh two years ago and later PBC vice chairman for one year, belongs to the Hamid Khan Lawyers Group.

The Asma Jahangir group, which has a majority in the PBC House, demanded Naseem’s denotification once before in September but Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan, who belongs to Karachi, rejected the plea.

The group, also known as the Independent Lawyers Group, argues that once a lawyer holds an office of profit, he cannot practice as a lawyer and his license should be suspended.

There are two previous judgments wherein even the prime minister’s adviser was not allowed to practice law. Former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had barred Latif Khosa, when he was the PM’s adviser, from appearing in the Jamshed Dasti case.

Likewise, the 17-judge bench of the apex court did not allow senior lawyer Kamal Azfar to argue in the National Reconciliation Order (NRO) case as he was also the PM’s adviser at the time. A bar act rule states a lawyer cannot hold any other profitable office otherwise his license will be suspended.

On the other hand, Shoaib Shaheen, the counsel for the law minister, says that there is a precedent wherein Farooq H Naek remained a member of the PBC during his tenure as law minister in 2008-09.

Likewise, he said that the late Ayaz Soomro simultaneously held both the posts – Sindh law minister and Sindh Bar Council member, adding that under Article 260 of the Constitution, a law minister could retain his membership of the bar.

The three-judge bench, headed by acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmad, on Wednesday resumed hearing of constitution petition filed by the Asma Jahangir group.

PBC vice chairman Amjad Shah, Kamran Murtaza and Qulbi Hassan appeared before the bench on behalf of the Independent Lawyers Group, while Shoaib Shaheen was representing Dr Farogh Nasim.

After a brief hearing, the bench declared that the constitution petition against Farogh Nasim was not maintainable.

However, members belonging to the Independent Lawyers Group are criticising acting chief justice’s decision in favour of the law minister. They claim that in view of this decision, the law minister can appear before the court as counsel to contest cases as his PBC membership has not been suspended.

It has been learned that if Nasim was removed, an active member of the Asma Group, Yasin Azad, could have taken his place at the PBC.

Meanwhile, another PBC member Tahir Nasrullah, who was associated with Hamid Khan Group, has joined the Asma group. He will be their presidential candidate in the election of the Lahore High Court Bar Association.

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