ISLAMABAD: In an open letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan and Lahore High Court chief justice, a woman Additional District & Session Judge from Punjab, Dr Sajida Ahmed, has said that it would have been better for her to rear cattle and make dung cakes in her village than joining the judiciary where she has to face disrespect and naked abuse in court every day from “so- called “ lawyers.
Frustrated at the treatment meted in Punjab to judges of the lower judiciary, including women, the judge went as far as to say that if Islam had not prohibited suicide, she would have taken her own life in front of the Supreme Court building because of the unending abuse, harassment and disrespect she and her colleagues had to face every day as a judge. She lamented that her seniors had done nothing to protect the district judges from this daily humiliation.
Dr Sajida Ahmed is the same courageous judge who during the judicial movement had openly supported the cause of an independent judiciary owing to which she had to face the ire of the then CJ LHC who transferred her to Bhakkar. She is presently Additional Session and District Judge, Fatehjang in Attock. “If ultimately I have to face disrespect and naked abuse in court while sitting as a lady judge by the so-called lawyers, it would have been far better that I had not wasted my 25 years of life in obtaining higher education and would have got married like normal Pakistani girls under 20s and not wasted the precious time and money of my parents in obtaining the higher education in Islamabad for 15 years. It would have been far better for the undersigned to rear the cattles, to make the dung cakes, to help out my agriculturist family and spend a life free of worries and agonies away from the lime-light of Islamabad….”
her letter read verbatim. “The noble profession of the lords has been hijacked by non-professionals and black sheep. The verbal as well as physical attacks of lawyers on the general public and police, in the premises of the courts and upon the presiding officers have become a routine matter under your nose.”
She lamented that unfortunately the fruits of the lawyers’ movement could not be reaped and we have and failed to achieve “the great cause of the rule of law”. She said that we witnessed it being tarnished when the whole world saw the lawyers of the Lahore Bar Association attacking the Pakistan Institute of Cardiology (PIC), where heart patients were running everywhere to save their lives.
She said that if the district judiciary’s grievances are not taken seriously, the judges will be compelled to write petitions to a number of international bodies such as the UN, the European Commission for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other organisations, highlighting the issue of delinquent lawyers and their daily misconduct towards judges in Pakistan, especially in the district judiciary in Punjab.
She said that ironically, the Punjab district judiciary’s motto is ‘No respect–No work.’ She added that while the judges provide justice to all, there is no justice for the justice providers.
She wondered why criminal proceedings under section 228 PPC and the Contempt of Court Act 2012 are not initiated by the district judiciary against the disruptive, non-professional lawyers present in the district bars. She proceeded to respond to the question herself. “It is because the judges of the district judiciary know very well that they will not get any proper remedy from their superiors but instead will be scolded with comments such as ‘why do you not have the ability to handle such matters tactfully?’ or ‘why can’t you manage your own court?’.”
She asked: “Why are the references/complaints against such non-professional lawyers not sent to the Punjab Bar Council and Pakistan Bar Council for the temporary or permanent cancellation of their licenses, despite the seriousness of their daily misconduct and misbehaviour with the presiding officers,” she asked.
“Sir, (if) it is an offence against the public at large when a sitting judge is abused, threatened and beaten in the courts, then why should petitions against such arrogant lawyers not be sent to the provincial/federal ombudsman pleading workplace harassment,” she asked.
She added that if professional lawyers are under pressure from these non-professional lawyers, then why do they vote and support them when annual elections are held?
She disclosed that more than a dozen young and hard-working judges of the district judiciary in Punjab had passed away in recent years but no one had bothered to investigate the real causes of their deaths. The most recent death of the young Mr. Badi-uz-Zaman, senior civil judge Pakpattan, speaks volumes of the pressure faced by judges. Why, she asked, did he die due to a sudden brain haemorrhage?
“If we are supposed to be snubbed, abused, mentally and physically tortured by the lawyers during our office hours and you cannot protect our honour and save the dignity of our family members, then we are ready to surrender the extra perks given to us like our cars, laptops or the extra pay given to the judges of the district judiciary. But this should not be at the cost of our family honour and prestige when male and the female judges are continuously harassed in our courts,” she said, adding, “I feel desperate and frustrated and compelled to either burn all my educational degrees one by one in front of the honourable Lahore High Court or in front of the august Supreme Court of Pakistan as a protest so that no girl among a population of 23 Crore should dare to come and serve (this great nation with zeal and Iman). Being a daughter/sister/wife and mother, your honour and respect in this most prestigious and dignified profession is of no worth.”