Supreme Court Bar Association Challenges Pakistan Bar Council’s Show-Cause Notice

Supreme Court Bar Association Challenges Pakistan Bar Council's Show-Cause Notice

The ongoing dispute between the top lawyers’ bodies in Pakistan has now reached the Supreme Court, as the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) challenged the issuance of a show-cause notice and de-seating of its secretary and additional secretary by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Thursday. The SCBA also suspended the membership of the PBC executive committee members, including its chairman Hassan Raza Pasha, over alleged “gross misconduct” and attempts to take over the Supreme Court lawyers’ body. 

The petition, moved through senior counsel Hamid Khan, requested the apex court to quash the notices issued by the PBC and its executive committee to Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir and Malik Shakeelur Rehman over their alleged defiance of the decisions of the executive committee. The controversy arose from the Feb 24 meeting of the PBC executive committee, which decided that Muhammad Ahsan Bhoon would represent the association instead of its president Abid Zuberi before the Supreme Court in a suo motu case regarding delay in Punjab and KP polls. Subsequently, the PBC on April 4 de-seated the two office bearers over non-compliance with the executive body’s decision. 

The SCBA argued that the notice and the de-seating were “blatantly illegal, arbitrary, mala fide, without jurisdiction, politically motivated, and in violation of the fundamental rights enshrined under Articles 9, 10A, 17, 18, 19, 19A and 25, read with Article 4”. It also challenged Rule 125 and 175-B of the Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Rules 1976 and requested the court to declare them illegal and liable to be struck down. Rule 125 allows the PBC to initiate suo motu proceedings against advocates for disciplinary reasons while Rule 175-B suggests punishment for non-observance or defiance of council’s instructions. 

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The petitioners sought a restraining order from the court against the PBC to stop it from interfering in the affairs of the SCBA and taking “adverse or coercive action” against the association based on the show-cause notice. The SCBA alleged that the group having the majority in the PBC was actively working against the rule of law, independence of the bar and judiciary under alleged dictation. 

Meanwhile, in what appears to be a retaliatory measure, SCBA Secretary Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir suspended the membership of seven members of the PBC executive committee. The issue has been referred to the general meeting for a final decision. In an announcement, the SCBA alleged that the majority group controlling the PBC tried to sabotage the working of the SCBA and that the members conducted the executive committee meeting in a “contemptuous matter” which was sub-judice before the Supreme Court, thus amounting to the contempt of the Supreme Court and defeating the interest of justice. 

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