A slap on the wrists

Basil Nabi Malik April 19, 2010

We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends: Martin Luther King Jr.

It seems that the lawyer community is in denial. The individuals who strove for the cause of justice and portrayed themselves as guardians of the same are now slapping judges. As if this was not bad enough, rather than taking to task the vigilante lawyer bar associations are holding rallies and bar meetings in support of the delinquent lawyer.

Earlier, when the chief justice was sacked by then president Pervez Musharraf, he tried to reach the Supreme Court building and was harassed and manhandled by the police. The lawyer community rose up in arms declaring the incident to be an attack on the independence of the judiciary.

However, when a lower judge was not only verbally abused but emphatically slapped by a lawyer they no longer felt that the Judiciary had been attacked. In fact, they were bending over backwards to support such uncalled for and deplorable antics. There are certain segments of the legal community which suggest that the judge had it coming.

They believe that the judge was a corrupt individual with nefarious designs, and thereby the delinquent lawyer had no option but to slap him. Even if one was to listen to such a rationale with a straight face, without bursting into laughter, one point cannot be ignored: that whether the judge is corrupt or not, there is no justification to slap or manhandle a sitting judge. Instead, a complaint against him should have been forwarded to the relevant authorities for action.

This was a time when the legal community could have shown that they are not above the law, and neither do they want such an exalted yet unjustified position. Instead of clinching the opportunity and showing the society that they are in fact a community founded on the principles of justice and the rule of law, they have trodden down a path which reeks of nepotism and arrogance. With that said, clearly there are lawyers who do not agree with the postures and stances taken by the various bar associations.

However, the number of prominent lawyers and elected bar representatives who have come out strongly and condemned the said incident can be counted on one hand. At a time when the country is already witnessing many instances of ‘wuklagardi,’ albeit in a limited area of the country, it would have been refreshing to see the legal community, and if no one else, at least the leaders, expressing their outrage at the way the lawyers have been acting and behaving.

However, there is still time to make amends and set the record straight. The Pakistan Bar Council, Punjab Bar Council and all relevant bar associations should take strict notice of this indiscretion and condemn it accordingly.

The license of the said lawyer should be cancelled by the relevant bar council, and an example should be made of the same to indicate in clear terms that such behavior will not be tolerated in any scenario. Anything less would be seen as promoting and encouraging attacks on the judiciary by anyone who feels that a slap on the face is more persuasive than the arguments he makes in support of his case. The protectors of the rule of law cannot be seen taking the law unto themselves.

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