3 December 2022
By Rehan Piracha
LAHORE: Lawyers in Punjab on Saturday, observed a complete strike in courts across the cities to protest the conviction of a lawyer over a contempt of court charge for not wearing a gown while appearing in the court of a senior puisne judge of the Lahore High Court.
A new division comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najfi and Justice Muhammad Waheed Khan bench was constituted to hear the lawyer’s appeal and objected that the bench could not hear the case until the accused lawyer surrendered himself to authorities.
The lawyers boycotted proceedings in the district courts across 36 districts in Punjab. Thousands of cases were delayed due to the absence of the legal community from the courts.
On December 2, the Punjab Bar Council (PbBC) gave the strike call after its member advocate Rana Muhammad Asif was sentenced to three months imprisonment in contempt of court proceedings.
Reportedly, Rana Muhammad Asif wore his black gown inside the courtroom when Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan told the lawyer that he should have worn the gown before entering the courtroom.
Offended by the judge’s remarks, the lawyer responded to the judge in harsh words. The judge ordered his security staff to take the lawyer in custody and also issued him a show-cause notice under a contempt charge.
An unconditional apology by the lawyer was turned down but the judge. Rana Muhammad Asif was directed to submit a written reply to the show cause notice and adjourned the hearing.
Representatives of the bar and lawyers reached the court and took Rana Muhammad Asif out of the courtroom. The lawyers also expelled the police personnel from the court and chanted slogans against the court action. Subsequently, Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan sentenced the lawyer to three months in jail on a contempt of court charge.
Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti constituted a division bench comprising Justice Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal and Justice Muzamil Akhtar Shabbir to hear an appeal of the lawyer against the single judge’s decision.
However, the judges recused themselves from the matter and sent the case file back to the chief justice for its hearing before any other appropriate bench. The chief justice constituted a new division bench comprising Justice Ali Baqar Najfi and Justice Muhammad Waheed Khan to hear the lawyer’s appeal. The bench, however, raised an objection that the bench could not hear the case until the accused lawyer surrendered himself to authorities.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Punjab Bar Council Vice Chairman Syed Jaffar Tayyar Bukhari said the council was deliberating on the next plan of action against the contempt conviction against its member, refusing to comment further on the issue.
Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman Hafeez-ur-Rehman told Voicepk.net that the incident needed to be resolved amicably between the lawyers and the judiciary as it is tarnishing Pakistan’s image in the world. In his view, the 3-month sentence was harsh and unprecedented.
“Normally, such an instance of wearing a gown in the courtroom should have been ignored by the judge while the lawyer should have also shown grace by instantly apoligising,” Hafeez-ur-Rehman. He said the incident would leave a bad impression on young lawyers who were often guided by senior lawyers about showing the utmost respect to judges.
Pakistan Bar Council Vice Chairman Hafeez-ur-Rehman said the wearing of a gown is compulsory for a lawyer while appearing in the high court in the winter season. He said the Pakistan Bar Council did not endorse the strike call because it was working to resolve the issue.
He hoped that the matter would be amicably resolved when the division bench hears the appeal of the lawyer who is likely to surrender himself by that time. The bar associations have called for overturning the lawyer’s conviction and harsh sentence.
Rawalpindi (Special Correspondent) On the appeal of the Punjab Bar Council, lawyers went on a complete strike in District Kachhari yesterday and did not appear in the courts as a protest. The lawyers became agitated over the unfortunate quarrel and the three-month prison sentence to the bar official for contempt of court and they went on a complete strike in 36 districts across Punjab and last day on December 3, Saturday, due to the non-appearance of the lawyers in the courts, the district due to this strike, a total of 1084 cases were not heard in the Sessions Civil Magistrate and Special Courts of District Rawalpindi and all these cases were adjourned without any action.
General Secretary of Bar Association, Malik Mubashir Rafaqi, Masood Shah, Asad Abbasi advocates have demanded to resolve the matter by cancelling the punishment given to the official of the Punjab Bar in the bar protest meeting. It was deserted due to the non-hearing of cases Ceylons who came from Z were forced to return disappointed, President Bar Malik Majeed told that if the matter is not resolved, there will be another strike on Monday.