Bench-bar relationship continues to fray

Published: August 27, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The relationship between the bench and the bar has hit a new low after a series of incidents during the tenure of Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa.

The extent of tensions can be gauged from the fact that several representatives of lawyers did not attend the farewell dinner organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) on Monday for outgoing apex court judge Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed.

Many senior lawyers were absent and most chairs at the event were empty.

The bench and bar ties started straining when CJP Khosa took steps for judicial reforms in the country, especially in respect of Sections 22A and 22B of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and the establishment of model courts.

Lawyers boycotted the court proceedings over these initiatives.

The matter was amicably resolved between the bench and bar. However, tensions arose again over the presidential references filed against two judges — Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court and Justice KK Agha of the Sindh High Court.

Later, the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) issued show cause notices to the two judges.  The bar believes that the presidential references against the two judges have been filed with mala fide intent.

Lawyers are arranging conventions in different cities and raising serious questions over the conduct of top judges who are working as SJC members.

SCBA President Amanullah Kanrani has issued harsh statements against top judges and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has formed committees to identify incompetent judges so that complaints of misconduct against them could be filed with the SJC.

The superior bars have also expressed serious reservations over the CJP’s statement that lawyers should launch a movement called ‘Tehreek-e-Bahali Izat-e-Wukla’ for the restoration of the dignity of the legal profession.

Making matters worse, the Peshawar High Court has issued a contempt notice to outspoken PBC Vice Chairman Syed Amjad Shah over his interview with a YouTube channel.

In his interview, Shah levelled accusations of nepotism against the PHC chief justice in the matter of high court appointments.

In response to the contempt notice, all federal and provincial bars boycotted court proceedings on Monday.

There are several reasons for the growing tensions between the bench and bar during the tenure of CJP Khosa.

The bar has always remained ‘anti-establishment’. Whenever the bench has taken a pro-establishment stance, it has faced a tough time.

However, a senior lawyer believes that instead of focusing on issues-based politics, bar representatives often represent the popular sentiments of their voters. Their primary objective is to remain in power and receive personal benefits, he maintains.

Unlike his predecessors Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Mian Saqib Nisar, the incumbent chief justice has no ‘favourite lawyers’ or  group to defend him in the bar.

Likewise, he hardly holds meetings with representatives of superior bars.

It has also been witnessed that currently both the judiciary and executive are on same page over the appointment of judges as well as the process of accountability. However, bar has a different opinion on these issues.

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