A confrontation between the bench and the bar deepened on Thursday when the Sindh High Court directed judicial officers across the province to pay no heed to Sindh Bar Council’s (SBC) call to suspend legal proceedings.
SHC’s registrar office had issued a circular to all judges of the high court and district courts to ensure that legal proceedings weren’t disrupted.
The lawyers’ fraternity, however, boycotted legal proceedings to protest against what they claimed were ‘uncalled for’ remarks of the high court’s chief justice against some members of the bar. Lawyers also stayed away from the courts throughout Upper Sindh on Thursday.
Legal proceedings weren’t disrupted at the Sindh High Court, where the lawyers appeared before the judges to plead their cases, giving a lukewarm response to the bar council’s call for boycott. All the judges, who were on duty during the summer vacations at the principal seats of the high court, heard the cases fixed for the day before them.
Showing ignorance about the strike call, a large number of the lawyers turned up to plead their cases as litigants had travelled all the way to the court. Court officials said the judges conducted case hearings fixed before them for the day in their chambers and open courts as well.
Point of contention
On Wednesday, the SCB vice-chairperson, Muhammad Akil, and members of the Karachi Bar Association had given a call for a province-wide boycott of legal proceedings to protest against remarks of Chief Justice Mushir Alam.
The confrontation between the bench and the bar arose when the SCB office-bearers recently held a press conference in Sukkur, alleging that complaints against corruption in the judiciary were increasing but the judicial officers involved in these practices were being granted promotions instead. They alleged that the high court judges were also involved in the corrupt practices.
Reacting to these allegations, CJ Mushir Alam had stated that some people in the Sindh Bar Council did not want corruption to be eliminated from the judiciary.
Talking to The Express Tribune, SBC vice-chairperson, Mohammad Akil, said that the lawyers had decided to boycott court proceedings on two accounts – concern over widespread complaints about corruption in the lower judiciary and promotions of judges without taking the bar councils into confidence.
Akil said that lawyers were among the three main stakeholders – judges, lawyers and litigants – of the judiciary. He added that promotion of judges, allegedly involved in corruption, without taking them into confidence and the remarks passed by the chief justice of the Sindh High Court against the SBC and its members were the causes of the strike call.
Akil clarified that their aim was not to level allegations on judges, albeit, if the complaints were correct, action should be taken against them. “We are ready to be corrected if our complaints turn out to be baseless,” he stressed.
Malir Bar Association president, Muhammad Ashraf Samoo, said that the bar and bench should amicably resolve the issues as they cannot be separated. Samoo said that the lawyers respected the bench and expected the same in return.
While talking to The Express Tribune, the Sukkur High Court Bar Association president and Sindh Bar Council member, Qurban Malano, also took exception to the remarks of the high court’s chief justice. He said SBC office bearers had pointed to corruption but instead of taking action against the accused judges, the CJ was passing insulting remarks against the bar council’s members and lawyers.
Complaints against judicial officers
The Sindh High Court (SHC) is processing as many as 120 complaints regarding allegations of misconduct and corruption against judges of the subordinate judiciary.
In addition to these, around 71 complaints, including five made by the Karachi Bar Association, had already been decided, sources told The Express Tribune. “Seventy-one such complaints, among them the five complaints made by the Karachi Bar Association, have been disposed of…while necessary action was initiated on the other genuine ones.”
They added that a total of 191 complaints – 117 in 2012 and 74 in 2013 – were received by the high court against judicial officers. Among these, the Karachi Bar Association had moved five complaints while 162 were received from litigants and the remaining 24 were sent by lawyers in their individual capacity.
The sources said that the remaining 120 complaints, seeking necessary action against the judicial officers, were still being processed to establish the allegations, adding that necessary action permissible under the law would be initiated once the inquiries were concluded.
“The judiciary has adopted strict criteria for accountability and any judicial officers against whom complaints were received would have to face legal action as permissible under law,” a senior judicial officer, part of the process, told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.