LHC holds farewell gathering for outgoing chief justice

Instructions issued to lawyers, officials, litigants to avoid crowding amid virus threat

Rana Yasif March 19, 2020
Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: Although the Lahore High Court (LHC) has taken strict measures to avoid crowding at courts, the courtroom-1 was packed with lawyers, judges and staff during a formal send-off held in honour of Chief Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh.

All most all judges of the LHC, including Senior Puisne Judge Justice Muhammad Qasim Khan, several prominent lawyers and court staffers were present on the occasion.0

The full-court reference continued for about two hours wherein the additional attorney general, other law officers and lawyers admired the services rendered by Chief Justice Sheikh. A number of senior lawyers and officials were among those standing in the room after the chairs were filled. Some lawyers seemed annoyed after they could not enter the courtroom.

No effort was apparently made to implement a circular issued by the LHC for avoiding coronavirus.

‘Dispensation of justice top priority’

A senior lawyer told The Express Tribune that it was astonishing that a ban had been imposed on gatherings at public places and several events had been cancelled but the farewell ceremony had been held.

“It was difficult to enter the courtroom-1 crowded with lawyers and staffers at send-off ceremony,” said a lawyer who came to attend it.

“It is a tradition of the Lahore High Court to hold a full court reference in honour of the chief justice whose tenure comes to an end but this was not the suitable time for such an event,” said another lawyer. He said it would have been better to postpone the ceremony because of the virus threat.

Despite attempts to contact LHC Registrar Ashtar Abbas for comments on the matter, he did not reply to phone calls and messages.

Precautionary measures

The LHC issued a 12-point circular on March 14, giving instructions to the lawyers, staffers, security officials and litigants for implementing the circular.

“All lawyers, parties, officials, whose cases have not been fixed for the day should avoid coming to the court premises in order to avoid overcrowding,” the circular said.

“Only those lawyers who have to appear or argue or attend to a particular case in a court shall be allowed to enter courtrooms. No associate or junior lawyers shall be allowed to accompany him,” it said.

“Only those litigants or parties or officials shall be allowed to enter courtrooms, who have been specifically required or directed by the court to attend a hearing in person,” the circular added.

On the directives Chief Justice Sheikh, strict measures were witnessed on Tuesday at the main gate of the LHC. Only relevant litigants were allowed to attend their case proceedings. The litigants were asked to wait outside the courtrooms and allowed to enter only after their case was called.

The LHC also halted dining facilities at its cafeteria till April 5 and allowed only takeaway services.

Meanwhile, a senior civil judge issued a circular to guardian courts, setting new standard operating procedures for visiting the children. In view of the instructions, only the guardians may meet the children while the rest of the family members will not be allowed to visit them.

Justice Mamoon takes oath

The DIG operations also intimated the district courts that the accused put in judicial lockup would not be produced brought for hearing till March 21.

On the other hand, representatives of the Pakistan Bar Council, Punjab Bar Council, Lahore High Court Bar Association and Lahore Bar Association demanded the release of those detained in jails for petty crimes.

They said the convicts who had up to six months of their sentences remaining should be released.

The lawyers will appear in cases of urgent nature such as stay order, bail, guardianship and habeas corpus, they said.

The lawyers demanded that all pleas for bail after arrest be heard by district courts in the jails. Only bail matters, habeas corpus petitions and urgent cases should be heard by the high courts, they suggested.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2020.


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