Today, Jinnah and Allama Iqbal’s noble profession is being held hostage by rogue elements

Published: August 20, 2017

Daska Lawyers Killing: Protesting Lawyers stormed at Punjab Assembly PHOTO: AFP

The practice of law is considered a noble profession in every society, pursued by those for whom reading, writing and interpreting sentences, words and even punctuation marks is second nature.

Lawyers breathe life into the sacrosanct Constitution and other legislated statutes, construing them in different ways when presenting their cases before judges. The reverence for legal practice lies precisely within this sophistication.

Today, the profession of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal is being held hostage by a few rogue elements that have slowly crept into the system. Misbehaving with judges and locking them up in their chambers is now a routine matter in the lower courts.

Recently, an unpleasant incident occurred in the Multan Bench of the High Court which raises serious concerns about the respect of judicial officers. How long can we possibly look the other way, while the sanctity of our judiciary is tarnished by a handful of troublemakers masquerading as lawyers?

As a result of such transgressions, we see that judges are now becoming scared of performing their duties. They try to maintain a low profile and if a party tries to pressurise them by a show of numbers, they try to niggle out by transferring it to another court.

When judges are scared for their safety, one thing surely suffers – justice. Through sheer threat of force, lawyers in civil courts are getting decisions in their favour. In turn, the losing lawyer, witnessing this travesty, focuses less on preparing his case and more on ways to pressurise the concerned judge.

With lawyers acting as gangs and the judges powerless to give justice, the overall image of this noble profession – already criticised by society for its extremely slow pace of adjudication – has suffered terribly.

But what has brought us to this low ebb? As with any issue, there are a host of factors, some of which are discussed below:

Abject indifference of Bar after the lawyers movement

The Bar Associations have the duty to ensure that their members follow the rules in letter and spirit. After the lawyers’ movement to restore the judiciary, certain previously unknown segments within the lawyer community became emboldened with power and influence which they suddenly acquired in the aftermath of that movement. They realised that in unity lied strength, but alas, strength of the wrong kind. The Bar Associations should have nipped this issue in the bud, but their criminal apathy, and in some cases full support of these rogues, has made them even more reassured in their actions.

A case in point is the manhandling of an Additional District and Sessions Judge in Lahore earlier this year by three lawyers for not getting a ‘favourable’ decision in a case. Though the culprits later tendered apologies for their act, it was the numb, toothless response of the Bar Association and its office-bearers that was appalling. The lawyers’ movement was supposed to bring rule of law, not suppressed it further.

No concept of Bar admission testing

Throughout the developed world, law is a somewhat difficult and exclusive profession to enter into, much like medicine. That is because to become a certified lawyer, first students have to take a highly competitive Law School admission test. Then, after completing a rigorous regime of studies at law school, most countries have instituted Bar admission tests, which are really challenging. As a result, when a person finally becomes an attorney, he appreciates the true worth of his profession and what it entails to be a lawyer.

In Pakistan, it is common knowledge that some, if not most people, only choose law because they did not have the requisite scores to pursue medicine or engineering. And when people pass out of law colleges, if a proper national standardised test were introduced, it would automatically filter out any elements that are not serious about practicing law. Currently in Punjab, law graduates do have to take a test for enrolling with the Bar, but ask any neutral lawyer and he will admit it is merely a formality, requiring little to no preparation.

Importance of teaching legal ethics

In order to restore the prestige and respect of this profession, it is absolutely imperative that subjects such as Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility be introduced as compulsory courses in all law schools across the country. In the United States, it is a must for all law students to take Professional Responsibility courses in order to qualify for the Bar exams.

A young prospective lawyer must be taught how to courteously behave before a judge and how to deal with clients and officials of the courts in a respectful manner. Enlightened with these vital principles, future lawyers across the country will know better how to conduct themselves before judges, in a dignified manner that is befitting of their profession.

To close, we must realise that it takes just one incident for a previously unimaginable act to suddenly become the norm. The civil courts are already a lost cause. Now, with this first act by the rogue lawyers in Multan High Court, the progressive lawyers must speak up, and heed the stirring warning given by a German poet Martin Niemoller,

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Usman Ali Virk

Usman Ali Virk

The author hails from Lahore and is a lawyer by profession. He recently graduated with a Masters in Law from the University of California, Berkeley.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.