LAHORE - At a time when a controversy is going on about the leaked news of a top security meeting at the PM House, some important matters were taken up by the Lahore High Court last week.

On a petition seeking inquiry against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and others in wake of Panama leaks, Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah set up a full bench that will hear the petition next week. Justice Shams Mahmood Mirza would head the bench with Justice Shahbaz Ali Rizvi and Justice Mirza Viqas Rauf.

Pakistan Tehreek-Insaf lawyers’ wing leader Gohar Nawaz Sindhu, journalist Asad Kharal and others had filed separate petitions, which were pending before different single benches.

The petitioners contended that the matter of Panama leaks was very sensitive and needed to be investigated without any delay as allegations of establishing offshore companies by the rulers brought a bad name to the country.

During the week, the LHC also gave an important decision declaring as illegal shifting of five sugar mills owned by close relatives of PM Nawaz Sharif.

Justice Ayesha A. Malik set aside two notifications issued by the industries secretary that allowed shifting of Chaudhry Sugar Mills, Ittefaq Sugar Mills Sahiwal, Haseeb Waqas Sugar Mills Nankana Sahib, Abdullah (Yousaf) Sugar Mills Sargodha and Abdullah Sugar Mills Depalpur to other districts.

JDW Sugar Mills, owned by PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, and others had filed the petitions against the shifting of the mills in question.

The petitioners stated that the industries secretary issued the impugned notifications on Dec 4, 2015 with mala fide intention to facilitate the desired relocation of these four mills.

Under section 3 of Punjab Industries (Control on Establishment and Enlargement) Ordinance, they said, there was a restriction on establishment of industrial undertaking without provincial government’s permission. They further stated that under this section, various notifications had been issued imposing restriction on establishing new sugar mills in the province.

The petitioners pleaded that it was the government’s consistent position that relocation amounts to establishing of a new industrial undertaking. The provincial government’s lawyer however contended that there was a dire need to allow sugar mills to relocate on account of the change in cropping patterns and improved environmental conditions and since relocation did not enhance overall sugar production capacity there was no violation of the ban or national interest.

He further argued that that the policy aimed to allow relocation to protect the sugar industry.

Announcing the verdict, the judge restrained the respondent sugar mills from carrying out their business in their relocated premises and asked the government to take necessary action against the mills for establishing new set-ups without seeking prior permission from the competent authority.

Also, last week, relations between the bar and the bench took a turn for the worse as the lawyers accused LHC Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of ‘misconduct’ and demanded his resignation.

It was an unprecedented situation as lawyers, both senior and junior, unanimously decided to challenge the judicial authorities saying that they would not tolerate interference into their powers. They had gathered at a ‘Representative Convention’ held under the aegis of Punjab Bar Council on Saturday, where they rejected the Supervisory committee constituted to charge the lawyers who were accused of violation of discipline or professional dishonesty.

It all began on Oct 8, when a seven-member advisory committee of the Lahore High Court, led by Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, suspended practice license of Lahore Bar Association vice-president Rana Saeed Anwar for three months for misbehaving with additional district and sessions judge Naeem Ahmed.

The judge moved a complaint against Rana Saeed, alleging that he snatched judicial file from a court employee, Rizwan Mansha, and later misbehaved with the judge, uttered objectionable words against the judge and threatened him of dire consequences.

On Saturday, the Punjab Bar Council held ‘Representatives Convention’ which rejected the Supervisory committee and its decisions. They were of the view that it was the prerogative of the provincial bar councils to look into issue relating to lawyers’ misconduct. The participants demanded disbandment of the supervisory committee formed to look into their matters and also urged the judicial authorities not to interfere into the affairs of the bar councils.

They called for withdrawal of the list of new judges on vacant posts, sent to the Judicial Commission, and cancellation of its meeting scheduled for Oct 18. They also demanded preparation of a fresh list in the light of the five-member committee’s meeting on Oct 18.

The lawyers demanded decision on the reference forwarded to the Supreme Judicial Council under Article 209 and demanded legislation to abolish Section 54 of Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act 1973, which gives authority to Supreme Court of Pakistan and High Courts to suspend advocates from practice for grave indiscipline or professional misconduct.

The resolution added that the regional benches of LHC must be set up immediately at DG Khan, Sahiwal, Sargodha, Faisalabad and Gujranwala, as they gave one-month time to the judicial authorities to accept and implement their demands, failing which they would organise a ‘Representative Convention’ for their future course of action.