July 4, 2021
By Ahmed Saeed
Office-bearers of the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) have repeated their claim of the federal government linking the release of government grants to the bar association, with a bar resolution against Supreme Court Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, LHCBA Secretary Khawaja Mohsin Abbas claimed that the offer was made by Federal Law Minister Farogh Nasim who contacted him personally to bring in a resolution against the supreme court judge on the pretext of ‘accountability for all.’
However, the federal law minister denied the reports, saying the government had never pressured bar associations to pass a resolution against anyone.
According to Khawaja Mohsin Abbas, the government knew that the LHCBA was in need of a government grant to run its expenses, so it linked the release of the annual grant to the bar with a resolution against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
The Secretary LHCBA clarified that it is the right of the bar to receive government grants to meet expenses, adding that the association had no intention of forgoing this right.
“In no case, will the bar stand down from its principled stance on the case of Justice Qazi Faez Isa. No resolution will be passed on the government’s initiative,” he said.
‘Cannot force LHCBA to bring in a resolution’
Insisting that the LHCBA was an independent body, the association’s president Maqsood Buttar said that the bar had decided to stand by Justice Qazi Faez Isa in every difficulty. Asked whether there was any pressure on him to bring in a resolution against the judge, Buttar said that the bar has always played the role of a positive opposition. “Nobody can force the LHCBA to bring a resolution, not to their liking,” he said.
Referring to the case of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, Buttar said that the matter was now over and now all the judges should work together to ensure justice to litigants.
District, tehsil bars express solidarity
Earlier, some district and tehsil bar associations of Punjab, including the Lahore district bar, had passed resolutions against Justice Qazi Faez Isa.
The Lahore bar’s resolution stated that no one in Pakistan is above accountability and if the three-time prime minister of the country could be held accountable, then judges and generals were not above accountability either. The Lahore bar’s resolution also stated that the association may become a party in the case of Justice Qazi Faiz Isa in the coming days.
After the resolution was passed, Serena Isa, the wife of Justice Qazi Faez Isa, expressed her concerns in a letter to the Lahore bar.
Responding to the letter, the Lahore Bar Association (LBA) President Malik Sarod Ahmed assured Serena Isa that the lawyers were aware of the plight of Justice Isa and his family, and added that his bar had always condemned vicious campaigns against judges and their families.
He added that the demand for equal accountability was by no means an intention to justify the government’s reference to Justice Isa being maliciously filed. He said that under the guise of accountability, no state institution could be given the authority to maliciously start gathering evidence to defame judges.
Why bar associations are funded by the government
Although not legally obliged to release funds to bar councils and bar associations, almost every federal and provincial government have provided grants to bar councils, including the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), and high court and district bar associations based on the number of members.
In this regard, Section 57 of the Legal Practitioners Bar Council Act, 1973 gives the federal and provincial governments the discretionary power to provide funds to bar councils and associations. However, lawyers’ organizations have demanded that the law be amended to oblige the government to release funds to bar councils so that governments do not force lawyers to pass resolutions in their favour.
According to bar councils, the amount of money collected in the form of annual fees is insufficient for meeting their expenditure on welfare projects for lawyers. Therefore, the councils require government funding to bridge the shortfall in expenses.
Bar associations need to be independent
Faisal Tauqeer Sial, Finance Secretary, LHCBA told Voicepk.net that the monthly expenditure of the bar association is more than Rs 5 million.
“Every government has provided annual funds to the LHCBA but this is the first time that any government has resorted to blackmailing in the matter of funding,” he claimed.
Faisal Tauqeer was of the view that in order to avoid such a situation in the future, bar associations need to be financially independent. He said office-bearers are formulating a workable strategy in this regard. According to him, they are trying to find alternative sources of income on a regular basis for the expenses of the bar.