–Division bench asks lawyers’ representatives ‘how dare you attack a hospital?’
—Protesting lawyers storm into courtroom of Justice Mazahir Naqvi to end judicial proceedings
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday strongly criticised the lawyers involved in the violent attack on the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC) two days ago, saying the action showed that a culture of the jungle was prevalent in Pakistani soceity.
The LHC Division Bench’s observation came as lawyers across the country, on the call of legal bodies, boycotted courts on Friday to protest against the registration of cases against those lawyers who were arrested for their involvement in the rampage at PIC.
Hearing four petitions filed for the release of the arrested lawyers, a two-judge bench comprising Justice Ali Baqir Najafi and Justice Anwarul Haq said their heads had bowed with shame over the disgraceful actions committed by the legal fraternity.
“How dare you attack a hospital?” Justice Anwarul Haq asked the lawyer representatives, asking them to justify the actions of the rioting lawyers. He asked what steps would have been taken if the lawyers had attacked the bar council instead of PIC.
Advocate Azam Nazir Tarar, who was representing the accused lawyers, said that the police did not have the authority to torture anyone, adding that the lawyers were being treated as if they had gone to PIC to fight a war.
Expressing anger over Advocate Tarar’s remarks, Justice Najafi asserted that the defendants had surely gone to the hospital to fight a war. Responding to this, Advocate Tarar stated: “We have condemned the incident on TV programmes”.
“You have no idea how we all are suffering after hearing about this act,” Justice Najafi said in response.
Advocate Tarar said that they do not have a bar leader who could have explained the incident to the judges, however he assured the bench that licenses of all those involved in violence would be suspended.
Justice Najafi remarked that the bar council have black sheep in their flock.
“The law of the jungle does not civilize a society, and what you have done is a culture of the jungle,” he said, adding that they will give a justifying verdict as they have taken oath to protect the law.
The court sought a report from the CCPO on the arrest of the lawyers and ordered the police to implement the decision regarding medical examination of the accused. The hearing was adjourned till Dec 16.
There was a heavy presence of law enforcement personnel at and near the LHC premises as lawyers gathered to raise slogans against the police and administration.
Protesting lawyers also stormed into the courtroom of Justice Syed Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi and sought to end judicial proceedings for the day.
“It is my responsibility to ensure continuity of judicial proceedings,” Justice Naqvi told the protesters.
He said it was up to lawyers to decide whether they appear for their cases but there would be no delay on the court’s part.
Urging the protesters to resolve the matter, the judge advised them to visit the PIC with flower bouquets and “hug out” their differences with the doctors and administration.
Meanwhile, the Proficient Lawyers Society filed a petition in the LHC seeking answers from the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) over “one-sided” coverage of the matter.
The petition also seeks answers from the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on the viral “controversial” videos showing lawyers attacking the PIC.
It also calls for an explanation from Punjab Police chief Shoaib Dastagir on the alleged use of excessive force against lawyers.
On Friday, lawyers across the country boycotted courts and demanded “immediate release” of their arrested colleagues.
A notification issued by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on Thursday said the protest was “against partial and biased conduct of the local police and the administration of Lahore against the lawyers as well as action taken by the Islamabad High Court against the Secretary-General, Islamabad High Court Bar Association.”
The lawyers’ joint action committee formed on the matter said that lawyers will not appear in courts on Friday. They claimed that the arrested lawyers were tortured by police and demanded their immediate release.
The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and various local bar associations also supported the strike call.
On Wednesday, lawyers had staged a violent protest at the PIC apparently on a mission to avenge a group of lawyers, who had been beaten up at the PIC a few weeks ago, soon after some video clips went viral on social media. The incident had resulted in three deaths as the condition of some critical patients deteriorated in the absence of doctors after the lawyers barged into the hospital and damaged equipment and broke windows and doors.
In the aftermath of the attack, police arrested 81 protesters. On Thursday, an anti-terrorism court in Lahore sent over 46 of them on judicial remand while turning down a police request for their physical remand to investigate charges of attacking the PIC.
The Shadman police had lodged two FIRs against 200-250 lawyers which included Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
SCBA REJECTS ‘UNLAWFUL ALLEGATIONS’:
In a statement, the SCBAP said the bar association “through a unanimous resolution strongly rejects and condemns the unlawful allegations posed on [the] legal fraternity” in the wake of the PIC incident.
“SCBAP downrightly discards the allegations regarding direct involvement of lawyers community attacking the said hospital rather the lawyers’ community gathered outside the PIC building to record peaceful protest against the unwarranted speech from the goons that have been hiding in the ranks of medical community that was the root cause of the reaction which provoked the whole legal fraternity,” the statement read.
The SCBAP expressed “grave concern” over the “unlawful arrests” of lawyers and “torture […] during their detention and inhumane behaviour with them by the Punjab police”. They said the strike was also in solidarity with Umair Baloch
The high court on Thursday issued a show-cause notice to IHC Bar Association Secretary Muhammad Umair Baloch for “professional misconduct and contempt”. The high court also suspended Baloch’s licence “to practice before [IHC]” until the next hearing, which will be held on December 19.