ISLAMABAD: Lawyers across Pakistan went on strike on Thursday and boycotted court proceedings against the proposed appointment of junior judges to the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP).
Members of various lawyers associations protested outside the Supreme Court’s building. The protesting bar councils and associations maintained that the “principle of seniority was disregarded” while appointing the apex court judges.
A large police contingent and personnel of other law enforcement agencies were deployed outside the SC in order to keep the situation in control.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) President Latif Afridi informed Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed of the protest through a letter sent on August 21.
The lawyers boycotted the court on the call of various bar organisations including the Sindh High Court Bar Association, Pakistan Bar Council, SCBA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bar Council.
In Lahore, lawyers boycotted the hearings in line with the protest in the capital city. Lahore High Court (LHC) Bar Association President Riaz-ul-Hassan Gillani said that the Pakistan Bar Council had given a call to boycott the courts under which the lawyers will not attend hearings in LHC, district courts, and LHC Multan bench.
Later in the day, the LHC Bar Association in a meeting approved a resolution against the appointment of junior judges to the SC. Gillani said that until a set of rules is developed on the appointment of judges, all appointments must be made on the basis of seniority.
The protest extended to Sindh as well, where lawyers observed a complete boycott of courts across the province, on the Sindh Bar Association’s call.
Hearings of thousands of cases were adjourned to a later date as neither lawyers attended the hearings at Karachi City Court and other courts, nor were the prisoners brought to the courts.
Even the entrance gates of Sindh High Court (SHC) were closed for petitioners. The decision to observe a country-wide boycott of courts to protest the appointment of apex court judges without taking the principle of seniority into account was made during a lawyers convention in Karachi, said SHC Bar Association General Secretary Advocate Umar Soomro.
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Abdul Latif Afridi had given the call for a country-wide protest on September 9, the same day that the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) was to sit to deliberate over the elevation of LHC’s Justice Ayesha Malik to the SC.
On August 31, a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of Judges In Superior Courts unanimously approved constitutional amendments that support the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court in accordance with their seniority.
The approval, however, came after the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) opposed the JCP’s recommendation for Justice Malik’s elevation to the SC. Justice Malik ranks number four on the seniority list of the LHC. The move to nominate her has drawn widespread condemnation by lawyers associations.
In August, it was reported that there have been controversies over the past few years, regarding the rules of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) – the forum responsible for the nomination of judges for the superior judiciary.
Differences erupted between the lawyers and the higher judiciary over the appointment of Justice Mazhar of the SHC to the SC. At the SHC, Justice Mazhar was fifth on the seniority list. Following the appointment of Justice Mazhar, the PBC called a nationwide strike, besides staging protests at all levels.
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