The right of access to justice is, and has to be, a basic human right. It also forms an integral part of the concept of rule of law owing to its natural linkage with the right to life.
When the right of access to justice was not specifically contained in our constitution, our superior courts had, time and again, held it to be a penumbra of guaranteed right to life.
The concept of good governance is closely linked with rule of law. No state can exist without just system of administration of justice.
A just system of governance is under a constant constitutional, legal, moral, political and social obligation to ensure availability to all its citizens a means for fair and just settlement of disputes. It is, thus, the courts of law which provide means to settlement of disputes in a given system.
What all this means is that it is the constitutional right of every citizen to have unimpeded access to a court for seeking justice.
Ours is an adversarial system of dispute resolution and lawyers are an integral part thereof. The evidence of lawyers’ paramount importance is that they are regarded as officers of the court.
Before 2007, the calling of strikes by lawyers and boycott of court proceedings was an uncommon phenomenon. With the Lawyers’ Movement, initially meant for the restoration of rule of law, boycott of courts by lawyers, for one reason or the other, has become a routine affair.
To seek justice and to be treated in accordance with law is an inalienable right of every citizen guaranteed under Article 4 of the constitution
May it be said, without any fear of contradiction, that access to justice and courts is impeded by calls for strikes of courts by the bar councils or bar associations.
The litigant public appears in courts of law through their lawyers. Upon call for strike, lawyers do not enter appearance in courts, thus the matters are adjourned.
The net-effect of call for strike and observance thereof by lawyers is that time of litigant public is wasted, courts become overburdened because less causes are decided than the ones that are filed every year and most importantly, constitutional right of access to justice is impeded.
It adds to the agony of innocent public litigants as justice is delayed and denied. Who suffers most? The poor litigant.
The regulatory regime, to govern the bar councils, bar associations and lawyers in Pakistan, is found in Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1976 and Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Rules made thereunder.
The latter, inter alia, specifically provide for a chapter titled ‘Canons of Professional Conduct and Etiquettes of Advocates’. A bare look at the chapter unveils, in unequivocal terms, certain prescriptive rules on the conduct of a lawyer viz-a-viz other advocates, clients and public. The chapter further dictates the duties of a lawyer to the honourable courts.
Under rules 166, contained in the aforementioned chapter, it is the duty of a lawyer to appear in the court when his case is called. Clearly, a failure to put appearance in the court — intentionally, deliberately, or in the face of call for strike or boycott, when the case is called — means nothing but a breach of duty.
Legally, every breach has its consequences. Breach of duty, in this context, is termed as professional misconduct. By doing so, one renders himself or herself exposed to disciplinary proceedings.
When a particular lawyer or a group of lawyers does it, it is not uneasy for the bar council concerned to initiate disciplinary proceedings. Unfortunately, it becomes next to impossible to initiate any proceedings when the entire community proceeds on strike in response to a call by the council or association.
The effect of such a predicament is that the very operation of law, and rules dealing with duties of lawyers and disciplinary proceedings, become ineffective and redundant.
The litigant public appears in courts of law through their lawyers. Upon call for strike, lawyers do not enter appearance in courts, thus the matters are adjourned
Non-appearance of lawyers before courts, to represent their respective clients, has many adverse implications. First, time of litigant public is unnecessarily wasted. Second, the cases set for that day are unjustifiably adjourned. Third, the course of justice is hampered, thereby occasioning delay in justice. Fourth, state money and time of state agencies including courts of law go into drain. And lastly, it gives rise to backlog of cases.
Overall, it slows down judicial work and brings no good name to the system.
To seek justice and to be treated in accordance with law is an inalienable right of every citizen guaranteed under Article 4 of the constitution. Strikes of lawyers affect not only public right of access to justice, but also deprive the public of their rights.
Of all professions, legal profession is the most honourable, sacred and demands highest level of commitment to professionalism as the duties of lawyers concern directly with human life, dignity, liberty and property. A slightest dereliction on the part of any lawyer in relation to such duties may affect the prestige of the profession.