The true kings
“As I entered the courtroom for Ayesha’s disappearance case, the room was packed with scores of lawyers chanting degrading, profane and obnoxious slogans against my senior. I had to make my way to reach the rostrum, which was a huge struggle. My junior colleague Noor Ejaz (already standing at the front) called me out to come quickly as she was constantly being harassed by unwelcoming lawyers from the opposing side. As soon as she called my name, a lawyer started using used extremely despicable, vile and offensive language against her. When I tried to intervene, a group of lawyers started to manhandle me and unsuccessfully tried to drag me outside the courtroom. However, during the scuffle they ripped apart my white shirt and black coat. All this happened inside the courtroom and in the presence of the Honourable judge of Lahore High Court (LHC)”.
The aforesaid paragraph is the exact narration, by Barrister Usama Malik (associate of prominent lawyer, Asma Jahangir), of the reprehensible incident which occurred on June 20, 2017 in the court of Justice Abdul Sami Khan. On the day of incident, Barrister Usama along with his colleagues, namely Noor Ejaz and Shabir Hussain were representing a 70 year old woman who filed a habeas corpus petition (for recovery of her daughter and grandson) in LHC suspecting involvement of a prominent member of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) in the disappearance.
Few days ago, the ever brilliant, Babbar Sattar wrote an opinion titled “The Rule of Mafias” in relation to the June 20 incident. Although, I have no cavil with the arguments propounded by Babbar Sattar in the titled opinion, however, I would like adopt the line of his argument and take it one step further by replacing the word “Mafias” with the word “Godfathers”. As unlike Godfathers, the mafias don’t enjoy unbridled power since they are often kept under the check by the law enforcement agencies.
It shall be noted that my opinion is neither against those involved in June 20 incident nor against the Member of the Pakistan Bar Council; infact it is against all those who, for protection of their vested interests, have transformed the intellectuals and jurists of future into abusive and violent mobs and have taken administration of justice to ransom.
The history of legal profession in Pakistan is rich and exemplary; the commendable role which lawyers have played before and after the creation of Pakistan is unparalleled. Pakistan was envisioned by a lawyer (M. Iqbal), Pakistan emerged on map of this world due to unremitting endeavors of a lawyer (M.A Jinnah), the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973 was theorised by a lawyer (Z.A Bhutto) and the same was drafted by a lawyer (A.H Peerzada). Lawyers are refined intellectuals amongst the elites of the country and are ardent social activists amongst the oppressed.
However, a profession which has such a vivid and glorified past is facing the ordeal of the most grievous kind, as in this day and age, the incidents like June 20 have become a commonality. Many lawyers have become oblivion to the fact that they are officers of the court and the use of grimy words and offensive language brings a bad name to the whole legal fraternity.
The legal profession in Pakistan can be compared to a three phase pyramid, a pyramid in which, the top 5 percent have absolute control over highly paid work (top phase), the middle 35 per cent litigate on behalf of middle class or appear as regular counsels for government departments (middle phase) while the bottom 60 per cent hardly survive and are readily available for exploitation (lower phase) by Godfathers. The top 5 percent have copious work, infinite finances and are rarely interested in welfare of the profession. In view of the fact that, the lawyer community is divided on the basis of ideological thoughts and personality oriented factionalism, due to apathy of top phase lawyers, those in middle phase get elected to bodies which direct the administration of the whole profession. Post lawyers’ movement, we have witnessed overcrowding of untrained lawyers in the lower phase, such nature of overcrowding has resulted in continuous exploitation of lawyers for fortification of vested interests, inflated egos and superiority complexes.
All the political and ideological groups in legal fraternity are equally responsible for sharp decline in quality of legal profession in Pakistan; all are instigating and encouraging mob mentality among lower phase lawyers. The pawns of Godfathers terrorise, brow beat and bully the Judges and fellow lawyers for obtaining favorable orders. The use of intemperate words and casting unprovoked aspersions in the court rooms has become a norm, thus, vitiating the atmosphere conducive for safe administration of justice.
An advocate needs to conduct himself in a manner befitting his standing as an officer of the court, he should devotedly adhere to codes of professional conduct and act as a role model for others both in his professional and private life. An advocate is expected to be dignified in his dealings with the court, his fellow lawyers and the litigants. The profession of law is known as a noble profession; an institution cannot continue to exist in its name or on its past splendor alone. The glory and enormity of an institution depends on its unrelenting and persistent performance with elegance and dignity. Any breach of the principles of professional ethics by an advocate is inopportune and intolerable, by doing any act which is converse to the prevailing norms of the legal profession, a member of the legal fraternity not only gets himself disapproved but also brings a bad name to the profession to which he belongs.
The Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973 (“Bar Councils Act”) constituted the Provincial Bar Councils and the Pakistan Bar Council. The Bar Councils Act, among other things, in Chapter VII provides for, the conduct of advocates, punishment for misconduct, procedures in inquiries, disciplinary powers of Bar Councils, powers of disciplinary Committees and tribunals. The Bar Council Act obligates the Bar Councils to protect the dignity of the profession, maintain high professional standards, enforce discipline, to uphold the majesty of law and preserve any interference in the administration of justice. However, despite being aware of the fact that contemptible unruly activities are taking place in courts, the Bar Councils have turned a blind eye towards this particular issue.
The fact that a lawyer is a party in a case, it does not mean he has the license to intimidate the opposing lawyers and judges. The liberty of free expression conferred on advocates is not to be confused with license to make groundless allegations against a person, display scratchy behaviour and abuse others (i.e. judges, lawyers and litigants). When lawyers resort to such cheap attention-seeking stunts with a view to bully others into obedience, it jolts the confidence of the general public in the legal profession.
Bar Councils need to design and implement a stern future roadmap, the requirement of improvement is dictated by realities to which we no longer can afford to be myopic. Ignoring even a insignificant misconduct disturbs the fundamental foundation of the justice system. Unless and until the soaring trend of misconduct is immediately halted and reversed, the same will have a very disastrous effect on the administration of justice in Pakistan. It is high time that we realize that our much prized judicial independence has to be protected not from the executive overreach or the military adventures but from those who are an integral part of the judicial system. We don’t need Godfathers in legal profession, we need generous mentors for our guidance and development, as lawyers our goal is to demonstrate legal talents not muscle power in court rooms.