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June 15, 2019

SJC hears references against judges amid lawyers’ protest

Top Story

June 15, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) Friday took up the presidential references filed against Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court and Justice Karim Khan (KK) Agha of Sindh High Court (SHC).

A five-member bench of the SJC comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Sindh High Court (SHC) Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth heard the references.

It was learnt through government circle that the Council started its in-camera proceedings around at 2:20pm wherein, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan who was notified as prosecutor in the instant references presented his arguments however, the decision of the SJC is awaited yet. The SJC held the proceedings for one and a half hours.

Meanwhile, after the proceedings of the SJC, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan when came out from the Judges Block, the media persons posed questions to him about the decision of SJC till he reached his office, however, he remained tight-lipped and did not respond.

The AG after reaching his office, called two Deputy Attorney Generals to his office and held extensive meetings while some of the media men including this scribe waited outside his office with a hope to get any clue about the information relating to the preliminary proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Council.

An official when contacted to know the outcome of SJC meeting said that Attorney General did not comment on it saying in-camera means in-camera. Meanwhile, Ali Ahmed Kurd, former president Supreme Court Bar Association and lead leader in the lawyers’ movement of 2007 said that the Supreme Judicial Council insulted lawyers by not sharing its decision on the presidential reference.

He said that the lawyers along with the incumbent and former presidents of Supreme Court Bar Association as well as Vice Chairman of Pakistan Bar Council came to the Supreme Court at 9:00am in the morning and waited till 6:00pm for the decision of the SJC but the legal fraternity was not informed about its decision.

Apart from Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice KK Agha, the whole legal fraternity was party to the presidential reference and the leadership of the lawyers organisations should have been informed about the SJC decision”, Kurd told The News.

He said that that they are respectable people and have been fighting for the protection and independence of the judiciary but today the SJC insulted them by not sharing its decision with them.

Meanwhile, the legal fraternity led by President Supreme Court Bar Association Amanullah Kanrani and Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council Syed Amjid Shah staged the whole day a peaceful sit-in at front gate of the Supreme Court as well as inside the entrance hall of the apex court wearing black strips, expressing solidarity with Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice KK Agha.

They blocked the main entrance gate of the apex court however, the administration had made an alternative passage for entrance near the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). Meanwhile, five benches of the apex court continued their functions as per routine and heard cases.

Later, at around 6:00pm, Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan again came out of his office and started for Judges block along with Chaudhry Aamir Rehman and Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, Deputy Attorney Generals while the media men again accompanied them asking volley of questions but the AG and his team did not respond to the questions and kept walking.

The media men again kept on walking with the AG thinking that the learned AG might be going again to the venue of SJC however, he went to the car parking area of Judges and drove away.

It was not yet known as to where AG moved after attending the SJC proceeding. Sources, however, said that the AG might have left for Ministry of Law for deliberations with the Minister.

Meanwhile, it was learnt that both the Judges and Registrar of the apex court also left for their homes. Similarly, lawyers along with President SCBA Aman Ullah Kanrani, Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council Amjid Shah as well as prominent personalities and senior lawyers including Hamid Khan who is a senior leader of ruling Pakistan Tehreek–e-Insaaf (PTI) as well as Ali Ahmed Kurd, former president Supreme Court Bar Association also waited for the decision of the Supreme Judicial Council and later on addressed the media.

Syed Amjid Shah said that the call they had given for staging a peaceful protest for expressing solidarity with the judges remained successful saying that the SJC held its preliminary proceeding on the presidential reference.

He said that lawyers belonging to Independent and Professional Groups have fully participated in the protest for which he was very much thankful. He however, said that the media did not give much coverage which they expected. He demanded of the Supreme Judicial Council to share with them the decisions and orders so far it has issued in the complaints filed against the judges of the superior judiciary, as required under Rule 13 of the Supreme Judicial Council.

Speaking on the occasion, SCBA President Aman Ulalh Kanrani said they gathered here in defence of law and constitution and their peaceful protest was aimed to wage a war to protect the independent judiciary adding that lawyers across the country expressed their solidarity with the judges and stage a peaceful protest.

He apologised to the litigants for inconvenience they had face in view of the lawyers boycotting the courts proceedings however, he said that they had to do in order to protect the judiciary.

The SCBA president said that the Supreme Judicial Council held its preliminary proceedings in the presidential references saying they have not yet provided the decision of the Council however, he said that they will inform the lawyers as well as media when they came to know about the outcome of the SJC proceedings on presidential reference.

Kanrani thanked the lawyers for extending their fullest support in expressing solidarity with the judiciary. He also thanked the delegation of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists led by its president Afzal Butt for visiting them.

Asif Ali Bhatti, Secretary General Rawalpindi Union of Journalist (RIUJ) also accompanied the delegation. Earlier, Kanrani and other lawyers burnt symbolically, copies of the references. Banners with slogans against the two references and demanding their withdrawal were put up on walls of the SC building.

Meanwhile, the lawyers observed a strike in Karachi. The Karachi Bar Association put up locks at the city courts gates in protest and boycotted the judicial proceedings. However, a group of lawyers, belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan, which opposed the strike, broke them off.

Over the confrontation, KBA president Naeem Qureshi said the bar is united and only a handful of “opportunist” lawyers are trying to create an air of dissent. He said they are the same lawyers who adopted a similar stance on May 12, 2007 and April 9, 2008. He said this group is upholding the government’s narrative in return for jobs but the bar’s decision to go on strike is in line of the call given by the Pakistan Bar Council and Supreme Court Bar Association on a principle stance. Qureshi said:

The court proceedings also remained suspended in Sindh High Court due to lawyers protest and cases were discharged due to non-appearance of lawyers. The legal fraternity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also observed complete strike.

Black flags were hoisted on the premises of the courts and lawyers wore black bands around their arms.

In the provincial capital, the lawyers observed complete boycott of the Peshawar High Court and sub-ordinate district courts. The bar associations also passed resolutions against the government and demanded it to withdraw the references. In his statement, Peshawar High Court Bar Association President Abdul Latif Afridi said that the references against the honest judges of the superior judiciary were nothing but a witch-hunt. He stated that the government was targeting the superior court judges through the references. The opposition group of lawyers in KP also observed strike on the call of Pakistan Bar Council.

The opposition group of KP lawyers said that they staged the one-day strike to maintain unity and they would not be part of the lawyers’ movement over this issue in future. In Lahore, some lawyers protested on the court premises and chanted slogans.

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