ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Tuesday suspended Babar Awan’s licence to practice law over his persistent ‘inappropriate’ behaviour towards the court, directing the federation to appoint another counsel in his place in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto reference case.
The former law minister was however granted time to file reply by the court in order to provide him fair opportunity. Babar was earlier issued contempt of court notice for uttering contemptuous remarks against the apex court at a press conference held on Dec 1, 2011, but he again disrespected the court while talking to media outside the SC building on the day of the hearing.
An 11-member bench Tuesday resumed hearing of the Reference sent by President Zardari under article 186 of the constitution to seek Supreme Court opinion on death sentence of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
The court asked the Attorney General Maulvi Anwarul Haq to inform the president that in view of the Jan 5 and Jan 17 (yesterday’s) order, the licence of Babar Awan has temporarily been suspended, therefore, it would be appropriate if another counsel is appointed to address arguments in the Reference, which indeed “is one of the most important cases in the history of this court”.
The SC Registrar was directed to collect the enrolment files of Babar Awan from the Pakistan Bar Council and the Punjab Bar Council where he was enrolled as High Court advocate, and also the judicial files in pursuance whereof he was issued contempt of court notices by the Lahore High Court. Dr Babar Awan was enrolled as Supreme Court advocate on May 29, 2000 and status of Senior ASC was conferred upon him on May 29, 2008.
On January 4, a two-member bench issued a contempt of court notice to Babar Awan regarding a press conference addressed by him on Dec 1, 2011. The former minister after receipt of notice talking to media at the Supreme Court building stated that criminal cases were registered against him in the past too when he was advocating the cases of late Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. Berating issuance of contempt of court notice, he uttered a verse in Seraiki language ‘Notice milya, kakh na hilleya, keun sohneyan da gila karan; mai lakh wari Bismillah karan’ (The notice was issued but nothing happened, so why should I complain. I will always welcome such moves).
Babar Awan appeared and stated he needs some time to engage a counsel. But the bench pointed out to him that more than sufficient time has already been granted to him and as the bench is seized with one of the most important cases i.e. the Reference concerning the death sentence awarded to late Zulfikar Bhutto. At the decision of the court to suspend his licence, Babar Awan uttered: “Verily Allah is the best of Providers”.
The court on Jan 5 served notice on Babar Awan under Order IV rule 30 of the Supreme Court Rules, 1980 and the case was fixed for hearing on Jan 9, but the same could not be taken up due to unavoidable circumstances therefore the case was fixed for Jan 17 (yesterday).
The chief justice said: “We have to proceed with the case as early as possible without causing delay in any manner and unless the question of notice is decided, it would not be appropriate to proceed with the Reference.” He observed that good relationship between the bench and the bar depends upon mutual respect. The chief justice said the system is derailed when there is no respect for the judiciary, adding all over the world the judiciary is respected. This institution, being the apex court, deserves to be respected by all concerned, particularly the advocates and the members of the legal fraternity to whom licences are issued for appearing before this court.
The chief justice further said they are ready to pay a price for the dignity and supremacy of the judiciary, as they have done in the past. If the institution like the Supreme Court is not respected and an attempt is made to lower its prestige in the eyes of the general public, it would be very difficult to administer justice because this is the court whose working/decisions send a message down to the court of the magistrate and the civil judge that they should administer justice without fear or favour, and if the apex court is maligned by anyone, it would not be possible to maintain its dignity and status.
The chief justice said that Babar Awan had been appearing before this court and this court always respected him, but the attitude shown by him on Jan 4 after receipt of notice, compelled this court to issue a notice.
During the proceeding the chief justice inquired from Babar Awan if he was issued any contempt of court notice by the Lahore High Court. Babar replied: “First, when I was filing my legal attorney in the court and Justice Ch Ihsanul Haq became angry with me, and, second, when Justice Nawaz Abbasi was heading the bench and I pointed out a meeting of a judge at night.”
In order to provide him fair opportunity, the court granted him time to file reply, but at the same time to ensure dignity and respect of the court, temporarily suspend his licence to appear before this court. And, no sooner he has engaged a counsel and filed the reply, he would make a request to the Registrar for the purpose of taking up this matter. The case was adjourned to a date in office and shall be taken up no sooner the president nominates another counsel to address the court in the Reference case.