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LHC stays its own judicial proceedings

Lawyers surprised over single-judge bench staying proceedings of a case before another single-judge bench

A single-judge bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Friday stayed the proceedings of another single-judge bench.

LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti, on a petition filed by the LHC through its registrar, stayed the proceedings of a case being heard by fellow judge Justice Anwarul Haq Pannu.

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“Notice to respondent No.1 for 30-11-2021. The service of said respondent be effected through the agency of learned Senior Civil Judge concerned, registered post A.D. and Courier Service at the expenses of the applicant, to be deposited within three days,” read the order, a copy of which is available with Minute Mirror.

The order further said, “Subject to notice for the said date, the proceedings in the matter pending at LHC, Bahawalpur Bench, shall remain stayed, meanwhile.”

The lawyers however, have expressed surprise as to how a single-judge bench could stay the proceedings of a case before another single-judge bench. The lawyers have said that there was no such precedent and believed that at least an LHC division bench could grant a stay order on the proceeding of a single-judge bench, or the matter could be taken to the Supreme Court to seek a stay or any other order.

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“It is unprecedented,” said advocate Khurram Chughtai.

Another lawyer, Chaudhary Shoaib Saleem, said, “I believe the CJ or any single bench has no jurisdiction to entertain any fresh petition against the order of a single bench.” He further said, “Only appellate forums either in the form of ICA or the Supreme Court can be moved for assailing the order of a single bench. Since the registrar is himself the petitioner, who has to raise objection against the maintainability of the petition, and the CJ has taken it up, maybe a new law is in the making, but it seems without any lawful authority having no backing or force of any codified law.”

In its petition, the LHC, through its registrar, submitted: “If further proceedings in the said petition are allowed to be carried out at Bahawalpur Bench, the applicant is likely to suffer irreparable loss and injury.” It prayed: “It is therefore respectfully prayed that while accepting the application in hand, until disposal of main petition, further proceedings in said petition may kindly be stayed.”

The case started after the LHC establishment issued a final show-cause notice on October 12, 2021, dispensing with the inquiry, coupled with denial of certified copies for the reply of the said notice against Akmal Khan, who was serving at its Bahawalpur Bench. However, Khan challenged the show-cause notice before the LHC.

Justice Pannu, who was hearing his case, had fixed November 24 for further hearing but the single-judge bench of CJ Bhatti granted a stay order and issued notices to both the sides for a hearing on November 30, 2021.

Khan, who would now face suspension besides the show-cause notice, said that the show-cause was contrary to procedure, self-styled and purely gratuitous. He said that the law had settled that previous charges could not be improved, especially when litigation was already pending as it could affect transparency of any inquiry. The petitioner said that apart from being illegal, the show-cause notice was issued in a hasty manner and was nothing but vindictive, intimidating and illegal.

He also gave answers to all the charges levelled against him in the show-cause notice, and asked the court to declare it non-maintainable, non-transparent, illegal, unlawful, ultra vires and against the norms of natural justice.

The petitioner told the court that he was not promoted timely, so he agitated his case for promotion, which was due since 2009, but he was not promoted. Khan said he was pushed to the wall and disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him to teach him a lesson.

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