13 December 2022
By Ahmed Saeed
LAHORE: Conflict between lawyers and judges of the Lahore High Court continues for the second week with roads being blocked and police forces being stationed inside the High Court to prevent further escalation.
To de-escalate the situation Advocate General Punjab has offered to mediate between the two groups.
Speaking to Voicepk, senior lawyer and former Vice-Chairman of Pakistan Bar Council Abid Saqi has stressed that the bar and the bench should sit together and try to reach an amicable resolution.
“The bench and bar cannot continue a long cold war because we are part of the same system”, noted Abid Saqi.
The dispute started on December 2 in the High Court after Justice Malik Shehzad, a senior judge of Lahore High Court and lawyer and Punjab Bar Council member Rana Asif got into a dispute over the issue of wearing a gown while appearing before the court.
Contrary to courtroom rules and customs, Rana Asif appeared before the High Court judge without a lawyer’s gown. The judge rebuked him and a war of words initiated between the two. Consequently, Rana Asif was issued a notice of contempt of court by the High Court and later sentenced to three months imprisonment under the law of contempt.
After the sentence, lawyers and members of the Punjab Bar Association helped Rana Asif escape the court and demanded that the judge withdraw his decision. The judge refused and the dispute escalated with lawyers announcing a strike on December 2.
Advocate General Punjab Ahmed Owais expressed regret over the whole situation and has offered to mediate the matter. He noted that the law of contempt of court is necessary but should be used very thoughtfully and with restraint.
Following the conflict, an intra-court appeal was to be filed in the High Court against the decision of Rana Asif’s sentence, but a two-member bench objected to it and asserted that Rana Asif should hand himself over to the police before filing the appeal. However, lawyers have raised precedence where courts have granted relief to those found in contempt without surrendering to the police.
Advocate General Punjab Ahmed Owais shared a similar viewpoint noting that Rana Asif deserves relief without surrender. He further reflected that the earlier the issue is resolved the better.
“The issue should be resolved in the interest of justice and the judicial system. I am ready to mediate between the parties whenever they are ready to reconcile.”, he stated.
The ongoing tussle between the bar and the bench has detrimentally affected court proceedings. Citizens and young lawyers want the matter to be resolved immediately so regular proceedings can take place and people can get justice.
Meanwhile, lawyers have extended the scope of the ongoing strike to entire Punjab and have announced to take the matter to the Supreme Court.