September Issue 2017

By | Cover Story | Published 1 month ago

In recent years, lawyers have time and again demonstrated their ability to get their extra-legal demands met by exerting pressure on judges. While most of these incidents have occurred at the level of the subordinate judiciary, the latest one at the High Court in Lahore demonstrated that now no one is exempt, no court is sacred. And such scenes of hooliganism by lawyers have been enacted so many times, that a term wukla-gardi (akin to goonda gardi – ie hooliganism) has actually been coined for the behaviour.

Some recent instances of mob violence by lawyers:

On May 30, 2017, judges at the district courts in Lahore abandoned judicial work in protest against the alleged maltreatment of their colleague by lawyers. A group of lawyers allegedly misbehaved with civil judge, Waseem Ahmad, at the LDA Complex for not rendering a ‘favourable’ decision. The lawyers used abusive language against the judge and also snatched a case file from the court’s staff. A mobile video of the incident went viral on social media. Reacting to the lawyers’ misconduct with their colleague, the judicial officers at the sessions and civil courts went on strike, refused to hold court and demanded that the district and sessions judge ensure the security of the judicial officers, saying they had been working in a hostile situation.

On May 20, 2017, lawyers affiliated with the PML-N Lawyers Forum and federal and provincial law officers barged into the court’s convention hall, where the Bar was hosting a conference to press for their demand for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s immediate resignation in the wake of the Panama Papers case verdict. The mob ransacked the site and occupied the stage. They also locked Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President, Rasheed A Rizvi, and secretary, Aftab Ahmad Bajwa, in the Bar library.

On March 13, 2017, a group of lawyers thrashed a policeman who was testifying before a judge in the Islamabad district court. On the night of March 14, the policeman had flagged down a lawyer riding on a motorbike near the Faisal Mosque for spot checking. The lawyer filed a complaint claiming that the official had misbehaved with him, and resultantly, ASI Javed Sultan, of the Margalla Police was summoned by Judicial Magistrate Jawad Hussain Adil. After hitting him in court, the lawyers again beat the police official outside the courtroom, and when he fell on the ground, they dragged him and hurled expletives at him. The Additional District and Sessions Judge and the District Bar Association eventually intervened to resolve the dispute.

On March 8, 2017, the court of the additional and district and sessions judge, and of four civil judges, were shifted from Bhowana to the district headquarters in Chiniot on the orders of Lahore High Court Chief Justice, Mansoor Ali Shah, after he took notice of an incident in which the courtroom of the additional district and sessions judge was locked down by a group of lawyers. The judge had announced a fine and a one-month imprisonment sentence for a lawyer on the charge of insulting a civil judge.

On March 7, 2017, a group of lawyers beat up SHO Azeem Baig of the City Courts’ Police Station in Karachi, tore his uniform and ripped off his shoulder badges (pips) after he refused to lodge an FIR against a senior police officer.

On November 7, 2016, the district administration and the district Bar in Kasur, locked horns over a rift between a female assistant commissioner (AC) and a group of lawyers, as four lawyers forcibly entered the office of AC Amna Rafiq when she was engaged in a meeting with other officials. The lawyers exchanged heated words with the officer for keeping them waiting and allegedly locked her into her office, which was later unlocked due to the intervention of some senior lawyers. Later, lawyers went on strike for three days and demanded the suspension of, and strict action against, the AC Amna Rafiq.

On October 21, 2016, some lawyers in Lahore roughed up a police officer, allegedly for blocking their way to the Lahore Judicial Complex entrance. The policeman kept asking the lawyers for mercy, but to no avail. Eventually some other lawyers intervened and rescued the police official. This, after the staff at the Lahore Sessions Court had, just a couple of days earlier, already protested against the rowdy behaviour of the lawyers and held a demonstration outside the Lahore High Court.

On October 8, 2016, on a call by the Punjab Bar Council (PBC), lawyers across Punjab boycotted the lower courts for several days to protest against the formation of a disciplinary committee to hear complaints against lawyers’ misconduct. The purpose of the committee was to check the growing incidence of misbehaviour in the subordinate courts and to protect the rights of the judges who face the hostile attitude of lawyers. The committee, set up under the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973, had issued show-cause notices to two lawyers who were also office holders of Bar associations in Lahore. Both advocates were accused of misbehaving with judicial officers over ‘unfavourable,’ decisions and snatching court records.

On July 21, 2016, an attempted murder suspect escaped arrest with the help of a group of lawyers after an additional district and sessions judge dismissed his plea for pre-arrest bail. The suspect, a law student and the son of an influential lawyer, was booked by police on the charge of injuring his female class-mate with a knife.

On July 14, 2016, a group of lawyers formed a protective cordon around their client who was facing financial embezzlement charges, preventing the personnel of the police and Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) from arresting him after a judge of the Lahore High Court dismissed his bail plea. The lawyers also scuffled with the police and anti-corruption officials and helped their client escape.

On April 28, 2016, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council called off its strike after successful negotiations between senior lawyers and the Peshawar High Court judges over the issue of a local legal practitioner’s conviction for contempt of court. A sessions judge suspended the lawyer’s conviction and ordered his release on bail. Two days earlier, a judicial magistrate had convicted the local lawyer and sentenced him to 10 days imprisonment, along with a Rs. 1000 fine, for levelling allegations against a woman civil judge and misbehaving with her in the courtroom. In response, protesting lawyers staged demonstrations outside the courtroom of the Chief Justice and district judge, and removed their name plaques from the court’s walls.

On April 5, 2016, a group of lawyers locked a female Additional District and Sessions Judge, Najaf Shahzadi, and her staff in her courtroom, allegedly for not rendering a favourable decision. They remained confined until District and Sessions Judge, Nazir Gajana, took notice of the incident and had the courtroom unlocked.

On March 17, 2016, local lawyers in Okara lodged a two-week long protest, including strikes by the lower courts against District Police Officer, Faisal Ali Rana, and his three colleagues, demanding their transfer from the district. The police officer had lodged a criminal case against two lawyers for allegedly subjecting an elderly Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) to torture on the premises of the local courts. The Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) and Punjab Bar Council (PBC) supported the Okara Bar. Afterwards, the district and sessions judge, on the application of the “affected” lawyer, issued an order for the lodging of a criminal case against the top police administration, including the district police officer. The police officials were accused of raiding the lawyer’s house with arms.

On September 12, 2015, lawyers boycotted court proceedings at the Karachi City Courts in protest against the registration of a case under the anti-terrorism law against a lawyer who was booked by the police on the charge of physically maltreating a judicial officer.

On August 22, 2015, a group of lawyers beat up a police official at the district courts’ premises. The policeman ran and took shelter in a courtroom.

On August 1, 2015, a Gujranwala lawyer and his colleagues thrashed a court clerk on the premises of the district and sessions court for not forwarding the the bail application of an accused.

On June 24, 2015, The Lahore High Court Chief Justice, Manzoor Ahmad Malik, rushed to the Sheikhpura district courts to rescue a senior additional district and sessions judge who was locked in his courtroom by a group of lawyers. The Chief Justice was accompanied by three other senior LHC judges. The aggrieved judge, Khizar Hayat Gondal, had dismissed a bail matter, which enraged some lawyers who shouted at the judge and warned him of dire consequences if the decision was not reversed. The advocates left the courtroom after locking it from outside.

On June 19, 2015, a lawyer abused an additional district and sessions judge and locked up his reader in the courtroom for three hours. The lawyer had come to court without a uniform and covered his head with a handkerchief, prompting the judge to ask about his identity, which annoyed the lawyer, who started abusing the judge and walked away to complain to the district and sessions judge. The lawyer not only threatened the judge’s reader, but also slapped him and broke his spectacles.

On June 18, 2015, a group of lawyers severely beat a police sub-inspector, allegedly for using the glass of a lawyer for drinking water outside the Lahore High Court Bar Association’s cafeteria. The angry lawyers snatched two mobile phones and a court case file from the police officer and dragged him along the ground. Later, the lawyers expelled the sub-inspector out of the Bar area.

On June 17, 2015, a group of lawyers in Lahore thrashed a man who asked them to stop holding a discussion in the middle of the crowded Court Street in Lahore, and give his car way. The lawyers’ gossip session was holding up traffic, but that didn’t seem to bother them. Some passersby and policemen eventually pacified the angry lawyers and rescued the man.

On May 24, 2015, local government officials and police of Daska Tehsil of Sialkot district were conducting an anti-encroachment drive in Sialkot’s Daska tehsil when local residents and lawyers staged a protest and the local police opened fire to disperse the mob. As a result, three lawyers, including the Daska Bar President, sustained injuries. Subsequently, violent protests of lawyers erupted in several cities across Punjab where mobs of lawyers resorted to attacks on police personnel and mobile vans. Lawyers blocked roads, burnt tyres, damaged public property, manhandled policemen and harassed citizens. In Daska, angry lawyers set on fire the office of the Deputy Superintendent (DSP) of Police. In Lahore, the black coats marched on The Mall and forced traders to shut their shops. They attacked the Punjab Assembly building and set its security shed on fire. In Gujranwala, lawyers broke into the office of the District Coordination Officer.

On March 18, 2015, a group of lawyers severely beat a 50-year old man in the courtroom of an additional district and sessions judge. The man had come to the court to testify in a fraud case. The lawyers of the accused hit and kicked him until the petitioner fell unconscious. The judge tried to calm the situation, but failed. The injured was taken to hospital. The judge adjourned proceedings.

On February 20, 2015, Additional District and Sessions Judge, Lahore, Farrukh Husain, was transferred to Ferozewala five days after the office-bearers of the Lahore Bar Association humiliated him and locked his courtroom allegedly for not granting bail to a businessman involved in a cheque dishonouring case. The judge had asked the lawyers to argue the case on merit, but the lawyers wanted to get an immediate order for grant of bail.

On January 31, 2015, the Hasilpur police in Bahawalpur district booked 54 lawyers under various sections including those of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for allegedly interfering in official work, keeping policemen in illegal confinement and holding an unlawful assembly. The lawyers nominated in the FIR included local Bar office-holders. The lawyers observed a strike in protest against the registration of a case against them.

On January 26, 2015, a man moved the additional district and sessions court in Lahore for the registration of a criminal case against some lawyers who, according to him, had humiliated and severely beaten him during proceedings at the sessions court in the presence of a judge. The man was pursuing a theft case and the counsel for the accused, along with his colleagues, beat him. When he contacted the police, they refused to register a case.

On October 1, 2010, lawyers from the Lahore District Bar Association agitated on the streets against the then District and Sessions Judge, Zawar Ahmed Sheikh, who the lawyers alleged had misbehaved with them, and demanded that the Chief Justice of the LHC either sack, or transfer him. The real issue was that the judge had not acceded to some lawyers’ demands for giving the men, recommended by the district Bar, jobs at the courts. When the then Chief Justice did not bow down to the lawyers’ demand, the protesting lawyers stormed the Lahore High Court Chief Justice’s chambers and clashed with the police on the streets.

On March 22, 2010, a lawyer slapped a civil judge in a court room in Faisalabad. Several judges reacted by stopping work immediately. The district judge moved for contempt proceedings against the lawyer. When the Lahore High Court issued him a notice, the Faisalabad District Bar took a stand in support of the lawyer concerned, and boycotted the courts. The issue became prolonged when the civil judges in other districts also went on strike in protest, and a number of civil judges across the province submitted their resignations. However, the matter was resolved when the lawyer apologised to the victim.