Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Lawless Lawyers of Lahore

The criminal behavior of the lawyers in Lahore has shocked the nation and the world. They not only kidnapped and injured former federal minister Dr. Sher Afghan Niazi but they threw rocks and flattened the tires of the ambulance that was taking him to the hospital for treatment. Mr. Aitezaz Ahsan, the leader of the lawyers movement, has resigned from his position as the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

While some may be tempted to call it an isolated incident, the facts indicate otherwise. Several months ago, similar violence was perpetrated by lawyers outside the Supreme Court building against a few people carrying pro-Musharraf signs in the midst of a sea of black coats opposed to Musharraf's unlawful actions against the judiciary. Dr. Farooq Sattar and Senator Tariq Azim were also subjected to violence and needed hospitalization.

The shameful behavior of the lawyers makes a mockery of their claim that their movement is aimed at restoring "democracy" and "rule of law". It also raises questions about the readiness of Pakistani civil society to govern itself in a democratic manner. The conspiracy theories and the claims of "invisible hand" will not satisfy those of us looking for the facts. Unless there is full, impartial and apolitical investigation of this incident, this incident will be seen as part of a pattern of violence that has characterized the entire lawyers movement supported by politicians now in charge after the elections.

4 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Indian Chief Justice Kapadia warns jusges not to exceed powers granted by the Indian constitution, reports NewsOne:

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) The judiciary should not try to act as a super legislature, Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia said Saturday. He also asked the political leadership to resist from giving protection to corrupt judges.

Cautioning against internal interference from high-ranking judges which, if resisted, could lead to lower-ranking judges being transferred or being denied promotions, he said ‘similarly political protection should not be given to corrupt judges’.

The chief justice said judges should resist the temptation of post-retirement assignments. ‘A judge must not accept patronage through which he acquires office, preferential treatment or pre-retirement assignments. These can give rise to corruption.’

He advised judges to impose upon themselves certain ‘restrictions’ and remain ‘a little aloof and isolated’ from people in order to erase the suspicion that they were susceptible to undue influence in the discharge of duties.

He told judges to eschew contact with lawyers, individuals or political parties, their leaders or ministers unless it was on purely social occasions. A judge’s obligation must start and end with his analysis of law, not just personal beliefs or preferences.

He asked the courts to desist from the tendency of substituting decisions of legislative bodies with their own socio-economic beliefs.

‘We must refuse to sit as super legislatures to weigh the wisdom of the legislation,’ Chief Justice Kapadia said, delivering the fifth M.C. Setalvad Memorial Lecture on the ‘Canons of Judicial Ethics’ here.

‘In many PILs (public interest litigations), the courts freely decree rule of conduct for the government and public authorities which are akin to legislation. Such exercises have little judicial function in them,’ the chief justice said.

Disagreeing with the rationale that the judiciary was encroaching upon the legislative domain because the executive (government) had failed to discharge its responsibilities, Justice Kapadia said that ‘the courts should be circumspect in understanding the thin line between law and governance’.

The chief justice said a balance had to be struck between judicial independence and the accountability of judges. He said the challenge before the judiciary was how to respond to unreasonable criticism of courts.

The chief justice said that there was a need for striking a right balance between the judicial accountability and principle of judicial independence.

He said the challenge was ‘how does one achieve the right balance between autonomy in decision making and independence from external forces on the one hand and accountability to the community on the other hand?’

The habit of thinking impersonally, without regard for the worldly advantages or disadvantages of an opinion or an action was ethical thinking, he said.

‘This is the prerequisite of judicial thinking. The man who is only interested in himself is not admissible (to ethical thinking),’ said the chief justice.

The chief justice in his lecture dealt with a wide range of subjects relating to Canons of Judicial Ethics that included subject like Judicial ethics: From just words to deeds, Structuring of judgments, Accountability and judicial independence in the context of judicial activism and Value-based judicial accountability and independence.

The lecture was organised by the Bar Association of India in the memory of Setalvad, who was the first attorney general of India.

Delhi High Court Chief Justice Dipak Misra earlier said that the canons of judicial ethics should include both the judges and the advocates. He said that there should be strict adherence to integrity both in public and private life.

Riaz Haq said...

Have the Chamars no right, asks Indian Supreme Court, according to India's Financial Express:

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has severely criticised “some lawyers, journalists and men in public life” for accusing it of judicial over-reach for entertaining public interest litigation filed by “genuine social groups, NGOs and social workers” espousing the cause of the poor and downtrodden.

In a startling observation, the bench said that “so far the courts have been used only for the purpose of vindicating the rights of the wealthy and the affluent.”

“It is only these privileged classes which have been able to approach the courts for protecting their vested interests. It is only the moneyed who have so far had the golden key to unlock the doors of justice,” the court said in a July 12 judgment.

The court said it is praised when it gives judgments in favour of the rich but condemned with a “theoretical debate raising the bogey of judicial activism” when it gives relief to the poor on a PIL.

A Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly, in a 45-page judgment, said the highest court will be failing in its constitutional duty if it does not accept genuine PILs and “those who are decrying public interest litigation do not seem to realise that courts are not meant only for the rich and the well-to-do, for the landlord and the gentry, for the business magnate and the industrial tycoon but they exist also for the poor and the down-trodden, the have-nots and the handicapped and the half-hungry millions of our countrymen”.

The judgment, written by Justice Singhvi, came on a PIL filed by an NGO, National Campaign for Dignity and Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers, highlighting the frequent deaths of sewage workers trapped in manholes.

The apex court gave the government a two-month deadline to ensure that these workers are given protective gear and better working conditions.

The court said the judgment is meant to “erase the impression and misgivings of some people” that by entertaining PILs of social action groups/activists/workers and NGOs fighting for those who silently suffer due to actions and/or omissions of the state apparatus and/or agencies/instrumentalities of the state or even private individuals, the superior courts exceed the unwritten boundaries of their jurisdictions.

“There is a misconception in the minds of some lawyers, journalists and men in public life that public interest litigation is unnecessarily cluttering up the files of the court and adding to the already staggering arrears of cases which are pending for long years and it should not therefore be encouraged by the court. This is, to our mind, a totally perverse view smacking of elitist and status quoist approach,” the court said.

“If the sugar barons and the alcohol kings have the fundamental right to carry on their business and to fatten their purses by exploiting the consuming public, have the Chamars belonging to the lowest strata of society no fundamental right to earn an honest living through their sweat and toil?” the court said.

“The former can approach the courts with a formidable army of distinguished lawyers paid in four or five figures per day and if their right to exploit is upheld against the government under the label of fundamental right, the courts are praised for their boldness and courage and their independence and fearlessness are applauded and acclaimed. But if the fundamental right of the poor and helpless victims of injustice is sought to be enforced by public interest litigation, the so-called champions of human rights frown upon it as waste of time of the highest court in the land, which, according to them, should not engage itself in such small and trifling matters,” it said....


http://www.financialexpress.com/news/have-the-chamars-no-right-asks-sc/817780/0

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times report on Pakistan's troubled criminal justice system:

LONDON — Pakistan’s troubled criminal judicial system has failed to prosecute several notorious figures living there over the years, including Hafiz Saeed, the militant leader with a $10 million American reward on his head, and Osama bin Laden.

But Pakistani justice has not been hesitant with Musa Khan, a 9-month-old boy who faces charges of attempted murder and whose relatives have spirited him into hiding.

In a case that has heaped ridicule on the under-resourced police force, the baby boy was charged alongside four adults in connection with a violent protest in a Lahore slum in February. Slum residents threw stones at gas company workers who had tried to disconnect households that failed to pay their bills, leading the police to charge an entire family with attempted murder, including Musa.

The absurdity of the case became apparent last Thursday when the screaming child was produced in court, and had to be comforted with a milk bottle as a court official recorded his thumbprint.

“He does not even know how to pick up his milk bottle properly — how can he stone the police?” his grandfather Muhammad Yasin said to news service reporters outside the courthouse.

On Tuesday, Mr. Yasin said the family had moved the child to nearby Faisalabad for safety reasons, citing “pressure” from the authorities.

The case has attracted ridicule in the news media and provided fresh fodder for critics of the country’s dysfunctional judicial system, which frequently appears to suffer from misplaced priorities.

Crude police tactics played a central role in the prosecution of Musa, who was charged in February alongside his father and grandfather following the attack on the gas company workers. Lawyers say that the Pakistani police often lodge exaggerated complaints against poor families as a form of collective punishment.

The matter is likely to be quickly dropped. Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab Province and brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has ordered an inquiry into the incident. The judge in the case has ordered the police to produce an explanation for the charges.

The child’s lawyer has argued that children under the age of 7 cannot be prosecuted under Pakistani law. Musa remains free on bail until his next hearing, scheduled for Saturday.


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/world/asia/rounding-up-suspects-pakistan-charges-a-baby.html?_r=0

Riaz Haq said...

Protests Against #India Student Leader's Arrest Spread - ABC News - #JNU #Modi #BJP http://abcn.ws/1mJeN15 via @ABC

A protest that rocked a New Delhi university this week spread across India on Thursday, with students and teachers in at least 10 cities demanding the release of a student leader arrested on sedition charges and accused of being anti-Indian.

The protesters were outraged by nationally televised scenes of Kanhaiya Kumar, the student union president at Jawaharlal Nehru University, being kicked and punched while he was escorted to a court hearing Wednesday, renewing allegations that the Hindu nationalist governing party is intolerant.

He was arrested last Friday over his participation in events where anti-India slogans were allegedly shouted. A New Delhi court has ordered him to stay in custody for two weeks. The court will hear his bail plea on Friday.

The demands for the student's freedom in the Indian capital were met by mobs of Hindu nationalists, including many lawyers, attacking students and accusing them of being anti-Indian.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party and other Hindu groups accuse left-wing student groups of anti-nationalism because of their criticism of the 2013 execution of a Kashmiri separatist convicted of an attack on Parliament.

Kumar's treatment and attacks on teachers who supported him have triggered allegations that the Modi government and the BJP are cracking down on political dissent in the name of patriotism.

Soon after the protests began, India's Home Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted that anyone shouting anti-India slogans "will not be tolerated or spared."

The violence by lawyers occurred despite the Supreme Court ordering the police to ensure security in the court and has drawn wide criticism of the lawyers and police.

"Such a deliberate obstruction of justice amounts to constitutional contempt and cannot go unpunished," said Maja Daruwala of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

The Bar Council of India said it had appointed a three-member panel to investigate the violence by lawyers.

"We are going to take a strong action against them," Council president Manan Kumar Mishra said. "We are going to punish the lawyers if they are found guilty," he said before apologizing on behalf of the lawyer community.

On Thursday, students in at least 10 Indian cities marched through the streets and denounced Kumar's arrest.

In New Delhi, thousands of students, professors and journalists gathered in the center of the city. They carried flowers as a sign of peace, Indian flags and placards saying, "Free Speech under attack" and "Just because I don't agree, doesn't mean I am an anti-national."

Police said the rally was not authorized, but allowed the march to proceed to a central space used frequently for public protests.

In the southern city of Chennai, 40 students were arrested after they clashed with police.

In Kolkata, police were on alert as two groups of students held rival rallies in the Jadavpur University campus. Student groups affiliated with the BJP demanded strict action against Kumar and others who they accused of being anti-Indian.