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SCBA, PBC not to host farewell for Justice Khawaja

SCBA, PBC not to host farewell for Justice Khawaja

ISLAMABAD: A bad precedent is said to be in the making since Chief Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, who will reach superannuation on Wednesday, may not be given a befitting farewell.

The Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) have decided not to host the traditional farewell dinners in honour of the outgoing chief justice. This was decided in a meeting held on Tuesday at the SCBA offices. Both the associations have also decided not to attend a dinner being organised by Chief Justice designate Anwar Zaheer Jamali on the eve of Justice Khawaja’s retirement.

At the meeting, both the bar associations also announced that no one would attend the reference being held in honour of the chief justice – it is customary for the PBC’s vice chairman and the SCBA president to deliver speeches along with the attorney general for Pakistan eulogising services rendered by the outgoing chief justice.

The associations have taken these steps before like in the case of former Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry where the bar associations did not organise any farewell dinner but they did attend a reference held for him.

The bone of contention behind such measures seems to be the verdict rendered by a three-judge Supreme Court (SC) bench headed by Justice Khawaja on Tuesday, suspending the licences of senior counsel Ali Zafar and his associate Raja Zafar Khaliq to practise before the SC for one year.

Legal observers, however, are not taking the order as a simple stand alone judgment but as something which has political undertones.

Ali Zafar is the joint candidate of a majority group popularly known as the Asma Group for the office of SCBA president scheduled to be held at the end of next month. His suspension will eventually benefit his opponent, Kareem Ahmed Khurshid – a candidate for the same post from the Hamid Khan Group.

The suspension of Mr Zafar’s licence is the outcome of an earlier show-cause issued to the counsel for writing a letter to former Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk requesting the transfer of the Bahria Town case to another bench while expressing apprehensions about Justice Khawaja.

In his letter to the former chief justice, Mr Zafar, who represents Messers Bahria Town (Pvt) Limited, had regretted that despite an adjournment during his visit abroad which the chief justice had allowed till April 1 from March 24, his case was fixed for March 25 and heard.

“Zafar will contest the order by filing an appeal,” said lawyer and rights activist Asma Jehangir while talking to Dawn, adding that this was not the first time that the lawyers had been show-caused.

“What was the hurry for suspending Zafar’s licence,” she said questioning “is Zafar a serial killer or had arson or plundered to be hurriedly debarred from the bar so that he could not take part in the elections”.

She added that it was not a question of Mr Zafar but had become a question of dignity and honour of the legal profession. “We have always been respectful to the bench and no one can cite a single example of being disrespectful to the bench by any senior counsel,” she deplored.

When asked if the decision of not attending the dinner and reference would be in bad taste, Asma said that lawyers always have to register their protest in a peaceful manner. “Lawyers are not that simple, they know exactly what has been happening around,” she said.

Meanwhile, former attorney general Irfan Qadir also sent a reference against Justice Khawaja before President Mamnoon Hussain with a request to proceed against the judge by invoking Article 209 of the Constitution – a provision that asks for removing a judge under misconduct.

It is the obligation of the president as head of state, Mr Qadir stated in his letter, to initiate the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) proceedings against the judge, adding that he reserved the right to produce more evidence in respect of the misconduct against the judge at an appropriate time.

Mr Qadir claimed that he had every reason to believe that the judge had repeatedly violated the Code of Conduct for judges through acts of playing to the gallery, creating sensationalism so as to remain ever present in news tickers and print media, sermonising endlessly and irrelevantly so as to remain in the public gaze all the time, showing disrespect to the state and its institutions and its officials, making sweeping statements on a daily basis. PBC’s vice-chairman Azam Nazeer Tarar, SCBA president Fazle Haq Abbasi, SCBA secretary Chaudhry Mohammad Maqsood Ahmad and former SCBA president Kamran Murtaza apprised the media about a resolution saying the PBC and SCBA had taken the painful decision of not bidding farewell to the chief justice. They accused the judge of persistently treating members of the legal profession with indignity.

The resolution said that Ali Zafar’s refusal to be cowed down had angered the chief justice who suspended his licence for one year, adding the PBC and SCBA would protest against such draconian decisions. Bar leaders, however, reiterated their respect for the institution of the Supreme Court and said they had always struggled for the independence of the judiciary but would not tolerate “judicial despotism.”

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2015

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