ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday restrained the Capital Development Authority (CDA) from demolishing illegal chambers of lawyers constructed on the Football Ground, greenbelts and footpaths.
The lawyers have expressed willingness to submit an undertaking to vacate the amenity land once construction of the lawyers’ complex was completed.
A Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Gulzar Ahmed, issued a stay order effective till March 2 on an appeal filed by the Islamabad Bar Association (IBA) against the Islamabad High Court (IHC)’s order to declare the lawyers’ chambers illegal. The SC bench asked the attorney general (AG) to appear in the court on the said date.
Representatives of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Punjab Bar Council, Islamabad Bar Council, Islamabad High Court Bar Association and Islamabad Bar Association appeared before the apex court.
The court made it clear that the proceedings in this matter would be conducted without any pressure or favour.
A four-member IHC bench, headed by Chief Athar Minallah, disposing of the Football Ground encroachment case, asked the lawyers to voluntarily vacate the amenity land by Feb 28 and directed the CDA to retrieve the playground and hold an inter-colleges football match there on March 23.
The PBC has challenged the IHC’s order before the Supreme Court.
When the three-member bench of the apex court took up the appeal, dozens of lawyers gathered at the rostrum. Justice Gulzar asked them to leave the rostrum, allowing only those who were supposed to argue to stay.
Subsequently, SCBA President Latif Afridi and senior advocate Hamid Khan argued against the IHC judgement passed in the Shahnaz Butt case, in which the IHC four- member larger bench had ordered the CDA to remove the illegal chambers.
Interestingly, Mr Khan was an amicus curiae in this matter before the IHC and had opposed encroachment on state land. The IHC in its order had appreciated Mr Khan for assisting the court.
CJP Gulzar, during the hearing of the appeal, remarked that as he had been a professional lawyer in the past, he knew everything about the bar. “We know what the lawyers gossip about the judges. There must be sanity among the lawyers and we expect them to be cautious about their own institution,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Islamabad Bar Council (IBA) and the Islamabad High Court Bar Association (IHCBA) have welcomed the apex court’s stay order against demolition of illegal lawyers’ chambers.
Speaking at a press conference, IBA vice chairman Zulfiqar Ali Abbasi said that the lawyers should be allowed to retain their chambers until the establishment of the lawyers’ complex.
He said that the lawyers were ready to give an undertaking to leave their chambers after the construction of the lawyers’ complex was completed.
He condemned the Feb 8 storming of the IHC by the lawyers and said that in response to the letter written to him by the IHC chief justice, he had already condemned the attack on the Chief Justice block in strongest possible terms.
Mr Abbasi claimed that the CDA did not follow the law before launching a drive against the chambers.
He criticised registration of FIRs under the Anti-Terrorism Act in connection with storming of the IHC.
Mr Abbasi also opposed the proceeding initiated against the lawyers for misconduct and under the contempt of court law, saying that it was the prerogative of the PBC.
IHCBA president Chaudhry Haseeb said that the bar association was condemning the attack on the Chief Justice block from the day one since it could not be justified in any way.
However, he said that the lawyers’ chambers was the core issue and it must be settled once for all.
Islamabad Bar Council member Raja Aleem Khan Abbasi said that the district and sessions judge had asked the CDA to demolish two chambers but the civic agency had destroyed 100 offices of the lawyers.
He said that the lawyers were expecting that the situation would turn normal with the passage of time, but the IHC issued the order to demolish the remaining chambers on the Football Ground.