The earliest trace of the Lahore Bar, as a body to be acknowledged and accepted, starts from 1882. In October, 1882, the Judges of the Chief Court passed Resolution requesting Mr. C. H. Spitta, Barrister-at-Law (then a leading member of the legal fraternity and later to become a temporary judge of the Chief Court) to convince a Special Meeting of the Bar, to devise measures to root out touting. In compliance with this Resolution, Mr. C. H. Spitta convened a meeting of the Lahore Bar on 22nd November, 1882, in the Bar Room and at which five Barristers and thirteen Pleaders attended. Mr. C. H. Spitta presided over the meeting. At the meeting, ten resolutions to root out touting were passed by the Lahore Bar and their copies transmitted to the Registrar of the Chief Court, for his attention. These were received and under the orders of the Judges, circulated by the Chief Court to all the Commissioners and Superintendents of the various Divisions for compliance.
Apart from the above, there is no further evidence of the Lahore Bar till 1892-93. Out of the Association’s available records, the register containing the Minutes of the earliest General Meetings of the Chief Court Bar Association starts from the year 1893. The file dealing with the subject “Touts-High Court” amongst the High Court’s records contains the copy of a letter addressed to the Secretary of the Bar Association in 1892 and his seems to be the earliest letter traceable from the various High Court files addressed to the legal fraternity practicing in the Chief court in its capacity as an Association.
Wherefore, it can fairly be inferred that the Lahore Bar assumed some maturity by 1882 and became an entity which commanded attention and to which the Chief Court had to look to for assistance. But the Lahore Bar as a group or entity took birth before after 1882 and before 1892-93. In 1910 the Executive Committee recommended the Chief Court Bar Association should be registered and that the Secretary take necessary steps for this purpose. The General House in its meeting held on 9th June 1910, accepted the recommendations of the Committee and got it registered as Bar Association.
The Association maintains a library which can be ranked as second to none. It is stated that an Honouble Judge, once President of the High Court Bar Association prior to Independence, remarked that when he was the President, he had received requests for extracts from law books from other High Courts.
The Association’s Library, which has been built up carefully and systematically over the course of years, contains books on almost every conceivable legal subject. Before 1976 the main Library Hall with its alcoves, the Study Room, the Gallery above the library and a part of the rear verandah adjacent to the Study Room were all full of almarahs containing books. There was so much congestion in the Gallery that many books were laying on the ground, picking up dust. After 1976, a new neat and spacious library in the basement was constructed.
THE PRESIDENT AND THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
The High Court Bar Association, like other Bar Associations the world over, has been an autonomous body, with its affairs controlled and managed, subject to the control of the members in General Meeting assembled and by the Rules of the Association, by a Committee comprises of the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and a number of members (which has kept varying over the years).
Over the years, outstanding legal luminaries have been installed as Presidents. In the gallery, the names of William Rattigan, J. R. E. Gouldsbury, A. Grey, C. Bevan-Petman, Muhamad Shafi, Bakshi Tek Chand, Moti Sagar, Jagan Nath Agarwal, Mehr Chand Mahajan and Kalifa Shujauddin stand out prominently as Presidents highly esteemed for their great merit and ability and serving three terms or more. The names of Mukand Lal Puri, Fazl-I-Hussain, Gocal Chand Narang, M. Anwar, Manzur Qadir, Mahmud Ali Kasuri, and Miss R. S. Qari will also be remembered, for their manifold services to the Bar. The prestige that the Bar has enjoyed over the year is owed to these and other stalwarts aided by energetic Executive Committees and duly supported by a membership outstanding in its integrity, ability and zeal.
Side by side with the above development, can be seen the ever growing increase in membership of the Bar, as reflected by the number of members present at Annual General Meetings. The Annual General Meetings from 1893 to 1902 record the presence of between 17 and 28 members; those from 1930 to 1943, between 70 to 120; from 1947 to 1957, between 40 to 120; from 1958 and onwards, beginning with 150 and gradually rising to 500 in 1966. From the Balance Sheets for the years 1893 to 1902 a total membership between 35 and 50 can be mathematically ascertained. No Balance Sheets thereafter are available, save those for the last few years. The increase in the number of members within the last few years has been astronomical. The total strength in 1966 was 650, in 1979 it was roughly 1100, in 1984 it was roughly 1600, in 1989 was roughly 2100, in 1992 it was 3000 and in 2001 it was 7073. In 2013 total members were 22848. This figure has increased to 32653 in 2018.
BAR ASSOCIATION AS DEFENDER OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS
A Bar Association, like a barometer, is bound to its concerns and even shows violent reaction in matters pertaining to official excesses, and political, civil and human rights violations. An enlightened Bar will seldom see eye to eye with the government on important issues, but in voicing its views on governmental actions. Notwithstanding this, on all counts, an enlightened Bar is the voice of the people’s conscience and a sentinel of their freedom. It is not unusual for a strong and capable Bar to voice its disapproval to all those activities of government which border on excesses or which adversely affects the freedom of the individuals or their basic rights.
Again, the object of an enlightened Bar does not merely end with performance of varied functions in the judicial field alone, it must participate in the social welfare and promote and encourage activities beneficial to public interest. It must also fill up the vacuum, where public opinion has become silent or where nation-building activities have become dormant.
The Lahore High Court Bar Association has, over the years, played an active part in both the fields, namely, in keeping a vigil on government action bordering on excesses and in promoting and encouraging social welfare work and healthy public activities.
In 1958, with the promulgation of the Martial Law, the jurisdiction to issue writs remained, subject to limitations, but that to enforce Fundamental Rights was held by the Supreme Court to be non-existent. Even with the passing of the second Constitution Act of Pakistan in 1962, the position was not very bright. On 19th June, 1962, the General House picked up old threads again and called upon the Government that the Fundamental Rights should be made justiciable and powers of the Superior Courts to determine the validity of laws made by the Legislature should be restored to them by appropriate amendments made in the Constitution. Pressure from legal and public circles developed to such great strength that by 1963, the Central legislature began deliberations to provide for justice ability of the Fundamental Rights. In early 1963 a Bill proposing to amend the Constitution in the said connection was introduced in the National Assembly. On 19th March, 1963, the General House of the Association discussed the Bill and viewed the same with great concerns as it felt that the Bill, if passed, in its existing form, would leave some of the laws, which it considered repressive, intact. It therefore called upon the government to restore Fundamental Rights as prevailing in the earlier 1956 Constitution and that all existing laws be made subject to such Fundamental Rights and open to the scrutiny of the Courts. Finally, the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, I of 1964, introduced Fundamental Rights in the Constitution, but, however, certain legislation was made immune from justice ability.
PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES OF MEMBERS
The primary duty of any Bar Association is to keep a vigilant watch on any inroads made into the rights and privileges of its members, both in the judicial field or otherwise. The Lahore High Court Bar Association has always jealously protected the rights and privileges of the legal fraternity in general and its members, in particular, in diverse ways.
RESTORATION OF THE POWERS OF THE SUPERIOR COURTS, RULE OF LAW AND DEMOCRACY
Recently the Lahore High Court Bar Association has had to foster and sustain a prolonged movement for the restoration of constitutional rule from 1981 to 1985. As stated earlier, beginning 1981, the President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, destroyed the powers of the Superior Judiciary, tampered with the Fundamental Rights and the Rule of Law and assumed an absolute power. The Lahore High Court Bar Association, in collaboration with other High Court Bar Associations, apart from other political parties, launched a movement for the lifting of the Martial Law, revival of Fundamental Rights, restoration of democracy, the Constitution and the powers and authority of the Superior Courts and for the holding of General elections in the country under the 1973 Constitution. This movement gained strength in 1981 and continued till 1985. The Lahore High Court Bar Association held three successive National Conventions of Lawyers in the years 1982, 1983 and 1984, in which resolutions were adopted for lifting of Martial Law and restoration of Constitution. The Provisional Constitution Order, 1981, whereby the Superior Judiciary had been slaughtered and the Martial Law Authorities had assumed complete supremacy in contravention of the Constitution, was condemned. The attempt on the part of the President to avoid transfer of power and to foist further five year’s dictatorial rule by holding a Referendum on 19th December, 1984, was also condemned. The dissolution of the National and Provincial Assemblies by the President in 1988, in violation of Article 58 of the Constitution, the appointment of the Care Taker Cabinet at the Centre without the Prime Minister, in violation of Article 91, the fixing of a long date for the holding of General elections, in violation of Article 224, and the holding of the elections on non-party basis, in violation of Article 17, were also condemned and the Association demanded that the President hold party based elections within ninety days as required by the Constitution. A number of joint meetings between the Lahore High Court Bar Association and the Lahore District Bar Association were also held in the said connection. It must not be forgotten that but for the lead taken by the Lahore High Court Bar Association, in company with other High Court Bar Associations and political parties, some form of democracy would not have been restored in 1985 and full democracy in 1988. The lawyers, under the leadership of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, thus succeeded, where the political parties had failed, in providing leadership against the Martial Law regime.
One of the strongest crusades conducted by the Bar has been with regard to its claim to representation in the highest judiciary in the Province and other judicial offices. The privilege of the Bar’s representation in this respect is an inherent right, founded on ancient usage and established landmarks in the judicial order. A strong Bench or, for that matter, a vigorous judicial service, must draw its talents from the cream of the Bar. The Services do not provide the answer always, for more often than not, seniority and old age place obstacles in the way of that freshness and vigour required for sustained and difficult work at the highest intellectual level.
The Bar Association has always been a vanguard for rule of law and independence of judiciary. It has offered resistance to efforts on the part of successive governments to make appointment of Judges to the Lahore High Court on considerations other than merit. The Bar Association has always felt that since the superior judiciary is the last resort for redress of the grievances of the people, therefore, it should be manned by men whose integrity and competence are beyond question. Spineless and dependent judiciary would be a major tragedy that can happen to the citizens in general and the lawyers in particular.
The Lawyers' Movement, unprecedented in the history of mankind, was the name given to the popular mass protest movement started by the lawyers of Pakistan in response to the dictatorial actions of 9 March 2007, by the country's military dictator General Pervez Musharraf, when he unconstitutionally sacked Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
In March 2007 President Pervez Musharraf suspended Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Supreme Court Chief Justice, for misuse of his position. The suspension of Chaudhry was met with protests from Pakistan's legal community. Adliya Bachao Tehreek ("Save the Judiciary Movement") was formed to get Chaudhry reinstated, and to maintain the independence of the judiciary.
The movement was led by Presidents of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan Munir A. Malik, Aitzaz Ahsan, and Ali Ahmad Kurd, Hamid Khan along with others lawyer leaders.
On July 20, 2007, the Council (Supreme Court of Pakistan) restored Iftikhar Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of Pakistan and dismissed the charges against him.
On November 3, 2007, Dictator Pervez Musharraf imposed a state of emergency in Pakistan and again dismissed the Chief Justice along with sixty other judges, illegally and unconstitutionally, who refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order. Lawyers reacted to the dismissals, and emergency rule, by boycotting the courts, taking part in street protests and hunger strikes. People from outside the legal profession also took part in these protests.
The protests, and the international pressure triggered by them, forced Musharraf to end emergency rule in December 2007; however Chaudry and the other judges were not reinstated and the continued protests contributed to Musharraf's resignation in August 2008.The election of Asif Zardari as President resulted in a lull in activity by the Lawyers' Movement for most of 2008. Despite supporting the movement before becoming president, Zardari did not reinstate Chaudry.
Asif Ali Zardari's decision in February 2009 to declare President's rule in Punjab resulted in protests, encouraged by the deposed representative of the province, Nawaz Sharif, leader of the opposition party, PML-N. Sharif began calling for the reinstatement of Chaudry, reigniting the Lawyers' Movement and forcing Zardari to meet their demands. Chaudry was restored as the Chief Justice by Zardari and his Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gillani, in March 2009.
On January 21, 2009 the Lahore High Court Bar Association carried out a 10 Million signature movement. As the name suggests, the purpose of the movement was to get 10 million signatures on a large white cloth which was to be presented to the parliament at the end of long march. Political party workers, concerned citizen and lawyers participated and signed the petition.
On March 16, 2009 the Lawyers' Community had given a call for nationwide 'Long March'. Many political parties like the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz Group), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Jamaat-e-Islami and others supported and participated in the Long March. All the supporters of the 'restoration of judges' participated in the Long March despite a ban imposed on protests and rallies under Section 144 by the government.
CRACKDOWN ON LAWYERS
The government arrested detained and tortured lawyers on different occasions. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, armored police vehicles entered the premises of the Lahore High Court to attack the protesting lawyers who had sought refuge within the high court building. Several lawyer leaders were kept under house arrest for several months. Munir A Malik developed serious health problems due to this confinement. In Karachi, anti-lawyers movement and ally of the government Muttahida Qaumi Movement(MQM) torched a lawyer's office in which about 7 lawyers were burnt alive. In Sahiwal, police acting on the orders of the Musharraf regime attacked the lawyers with a petrol bomb, causing several lawyers to suffer major burns. Lahore High Court upheld the sentences against Police officers who were involved in attacks on lawyers in Sahiwal, on July 24,2013.
COMPLAINTS AGAINST PUBLIC OFFICIALS ETC
The Bench and the Bar are proverbially two wheels of the same chariot; cognate complementariness to the body politic of that vast and cumbrous process called administration of justice. Both, therefore, must act in unison and harmony or else the whole legal fabric must crack and the system of justice crumbles down. This also goes for the Bar and the representatives of the Government in its administrative and executive agencies. They too must act in harmony for the general good of the country and the welfare of the people, infrequently will occur some too minor to admit of objection; some that are merely accepted and forgotten; some perhaps, that will raise a holocaust and disturb the hornet’s nest. Objectionable behaviour by public savants entrusted with the duty of administering justice and preserving law and order are not all accepted with stoic humility for the mere preservation of good etiquette. Similarly, lack of observance of certain minimum courtesies or failure to meet reasonable demands, do not go all unnoticed. Some find their way to higher circles, to be dealt with a serious way.
FREE LEGAL AID
A project of “Free Legal Aid Cell” was launched in November, 01,1999 by the Lahore High Court Bar Association, Lahore. The cell is functioning successfully to render legal assistance to the needy, poor and destitute litigant for free access to the judicial system.
Since the inception of the Free Legal Aid Cell the Lahore High Court Bar Association, Lahore have taken up more than 5000 cases All expenses, incurred to cater the need of the poor litigant public, were met out through the funds generated by this Bar and the amount was collected from the members of the Lahore High Court Bar Association. So for approximately Rs.50 lac were spent in this head.
Free Legal Aid Cell is working as an independent body comprises Chairperson, Coordinator and members. This body goes through the facts and figures of each and every file submitted to them for free legal aid. After seeing the cons of the same the case is then referred to the lawyers.
The Lahore High Court Bar Association can look back with satisfaction and pride over its struggle for rule of law, independence of judiciary, and promotion of human rights and civil liberties. It has raised its voice over the years on all questions of national and international importance. It has withstood dictatorial and military regimes with courage and grit and worked relentlessly, in the face of all threats and perils, for the restoration of democracy and constitutional government. Its members and office bearers have courted arrests, suffered detention and made personal sacrifices for upholding its ideals and collective principles. It can look forward proudly towards to build on the foundations of democracy, rule law, independence of judiciary, fundamental rights, and civil liberties.