'Bar Brawl': Majority Of SCBA Executive Committee Demands CJP Call Full Court Immediately

'Bar Brawl': Majority Of SCBA Executive Committee Demands CJP Call Full Court Immediately
After infecting the political, economic and judicial domains of Pakistani life, the country's constitutional crisis is now exposing divisions within the legal fraternity and bar associations as well. The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), the fraternity of lawyers eligible to plead cases before Pakistan's apex court, also appears to be falling victim to infighting, as its leadership now faces allegations of acting like another 'one-man show'.

On April 8, a press statement issued by SCBA secretary Muqtedir Akhtar Shabbir, stated that he and SCBA president Abid Zuberi "strongly condemns the reference filed against the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) before the Supreme Judicial Council". Their letter also supported the Supreme Court's (SC) controversial decision of holding Punjab assembly elections on May 14. The SCBA president and secretary purported that the reference against the CJP was "patently illegal" and demanded that it be "immediately dismissed and strict action be taken against the complainant for attacking the integrity of the judiciary".

After passionately defending the CJP, the letter concludes by saying that the SCBA stood with the apex court "in upholding the rule of law and the Constitution". Evidently the two SCBA office-bearers had conflated the CJP with the institution of the SC itself.

On the same day, April 8, another statement was released by the SCBA, this time bearing the names of ten executive committee members who signed on to it. The statement begins by pointing out that it reflected the majority opinion of the SCBA, and was perturbed at the "non representative statement" of its president and secretary, which was issued "without taking into confidence the majority of executive".


"They have not only tried to deepen the differences among Supreme Court judges, but also tried to attack on the supremacy of Parliament, which can never be approved by the majority of executive" it read. The SCBA executive committee warned its president and secretary to "not act as spokesperson of a political party", the letter stated.

The majority of SCBA executive committee members did not reserve their remarks for the association's president and secretary alone. They also demanded that the CJP "immediately call full court meeting to patch all differences" and also "constitute a full court bench to rectify all dissenting decisions, to maintain the trust of public at large, as well as all stakeholders".

Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Bar Council called on the CJP to resign.


The apex regulatory authority of the legal fraternity, the Pakistan Bar Council, is still silent.

The KP Bar Council statement, and now the SCBA executive committee letter, pile on the pressure that Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial is currently under, especially in light of SC judgments that disagree with his rulings or cast aspersions on his administration of the SC. After Justice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, a recent verdict by Justice Athar Minallah also appeared to question the leadership of the CJP, and identified serious lacunae in the application of the SC's extraordinary jurisdiction.

Also on April 8, SC senior puisne Justice Qazi Faez Isa issued an additional note on the SC verdict he authored in Suo Motu Case No. 4 of 2022, wherein he dismisses a review judgment that a 6-member larger SC bench issued on April 4, as a "note" not a judicial verdict. Justice Isa also pointed out procedural irregularities in the review by the larger bench, reminds brother judges of their responsibilities, unpacks the "flawed reasoning" of the April 4 "note" by the six SC judges, and outlines the dangers and pitfalls of the judicial institution falling prey to the "absolute power" of its chief.


Justice Isa, who will assume the office of CJP in September this year, concludes his note by stating that "decisions emanating from a courtroom overcast with the shadow of autocracy cannot displace the Constitution".