Are Strikes by Advocates Justified Under the Law?


The legislature provides legal recourse for many grievances, but people often resort to strikes when the law does not help them. A strike is a form of concerted work stoppage, interruption, or the slowing down of a body of employees to enforce their demands against an employer.1 In the judicial sector, a strike usually takes place to highlight the grievances of advocates. Although the supreme law of the land recognizes the right to assemble,2 such freedom is not absolute. When advocates assemble to protest frequently without any justification, they impede the administration of justice. The law provides a specific method to register a protest and requires that a protest be conducted in that manner only and advocates must be well-versed in such etiquette. A strike is not the answer to all tribulations, instead, it boosts unfairness and discrimination if is takes place over trivial or unimportant matters or when advocates merely want to criticize a judicial or government policy. Such circumstances cause various complications for litigants and the judiciary and affect the significance of advocacy. The Supreme Court of Pakistan, bar councils and the government must take decisive actions and enact the relevant laws and rules to address such attention-seeking.

Legal Explanation for Strike or Boycott Call

The Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973 introduces the law regulating the conduct of advocates and bar councils and covers certain incidental and ancillary matters.3 It also covers the incorporation of bar councils, the enrollment of advocates and their right to practice, seniority and the regulation of conduct, etc. Moreover, the Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Rules, 1976  deal with the electing of members of the respective bar councils. The Rules also cover powers and duties of bar councils and members. Enactments regarding the common-roll of advocates, enrollment to different courts and disciplinary proceedings are also mentioned therein.

The Rules define the canons of professional conduct and etiquette of advocates in detail,4 however, there is no single provision on ‘strike’, which is entirely unanticipated. The word ‘protest’ has been used twice in the Rules:

  • First, with regard to the grievances of advocates against a judicial officer;5
  • Secondly, as a right to protest against persons not suitable for the bench and as a duty imposed on advocates to prevent political influences concerning the fitness, appointment and selection of judges.6

In contrast, the Rules also impose a duty on advocates to uphold the dignity and reverence of their profession and as members of the bar.7 The Rules further state that personal discourse amongst advocates causing delays and encouraging disputes should be judiciously avoided.8 There are also obligations on the advocates to preserve and safeguard the rights and interests of their clients. They must also strive for maximum learning and capability in all aspects to be able to deliver their full potential in accordance with the application of rules and laws. They should not restrain from discharging their duty due to fear of judicial disapproval or public dissatisfaction. The law provides remedies and defenses to litigants who expect their advocates to provide such treatment to them. Nonetheless, the advocates must discharge the trust of their clients within the bounds of the law. While performing their professional duties for the client, they must also listen to their conscience9 and consider their prime responsibility to be towards the court. If a case is called where the advocates have to ensure appearance, they should arrange for an acceptable substitute10 in case of their own absence. Non-observance or infringement of the canons of behaviour by an advocate should be considered to be professional misconduct warranting disciplinary action.12

Right to Assemble and Freedom of Expression Not Absolute

Although the Constitution of Pakistan remarks that every citizen shall have the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech and expression, it also stipulates that such rights are subject to rational restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order. The Constitution does not explicitly provide the right to ‘protest’, however, a democratic society recognizes such freedom. Let’s suppose the advocates believe that it is their constitutional right to assemble and protest for their rights – in that case, they must be careful that the exercise of such conduct is justified and does not encroach upon the basic rights of litigants and the constitutional duty of the courts to deliver justice expeditiously. The Constitution does not allow or authorize advocates to call for strikes or boycott court proceedings. In Suo Moto Case No. 7 of 2017 authored by the Honourable Justice Qazi Faez Isa, the Supreme Court of Pakistan enunciated the following:

Every citizen and political party has the right to assemble and protest provided such assembly and protest is peaceful and complies with the law imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order. The right to assemble and protest is circumscribed only to the extent that it infringes on the fundamental rights of others….The right of assembly, the freedom of association and the freedom of speech cannot be exercised by infringing the fundamental rights of others”.13

Furthermore, the High Court of Sindh has laid down the following:

“It is paramount to record that the right to protest is not unfettered and that it remains subject to all just restrictions, especially that such class action must be devoid of any resort to violence and / or any infraction of the law. Any attempt or perpetration of violence and / or precipitation of a law and order situation is disapproved by the law, and strict sanctions are envisaged for the perpetrators.”14

The Supreme Court of India has firmly held the following:

“A litigant has a fundamental right for speedy trial of his case, because, quick trial, is an integral and important part of the fundamental right to life and liberty enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution. Strike by lawyers will infringe the above-mentioned fundamental right of the litigants, and such infringement cannot be permitted. Even if it is assumed that the lawyers are trying to convey their feelings or sentiments and ideas through the strike in the exercise of their fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. We are of the view that the exercise of the right under Article 19(1)(a) will come to an end when such exercise threatens to infringe the fundamental right of another. Such a limitation is inherent in the exercise of the right under Article 19(1)(a). Hence the lawyers cannot go on strike infringing the fundamental right of the litigants for a speedy trial. The right to practice any profession or to continue any occupation guaranteed by Article 19(1)(g) may embrace the right to discontinue such profession or occupation but it will not include any right to abstain from appearing in court while holding a vakalat in the case.”15

The right to protest by the advocates cannot be permitted to trespass the litigants’ necessary right to speedy trial and due process of law or meddle with the administration of equity. An advocate has to cooperate and assist the court in the systematic dispensation of justice.

Movement for Restoration of Judiciary

There was a time when the lawyers’ movement16 demonstrated magic in Pakistan. The lawyers abandoned their legal work and took to the streets to peacefully protest. They had to face social, financial, physical and psychological problems for a long time and their families suffered as well. They gave their sweat and blood for the independence of judiciary. They were attacked, arrested, tortured, persecuted and made to go through many miseries but never gave up and stood beside the judiciary for the cause of justice. Resultantly, the protest led by the worthy advocates towards Islamabad restored the Chief Justice of Pakistan against the strong opposition of a stubborn executive of the country.

Causes Turning Into Strikes Over Unimportant Issues

Unfortunately, since then, strikes became routine over minor issues. I recall an event when I was posted as Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate-II Kandiaro in 2018; the advocates announced a strike and decided to abstain from court proceedings. The President of Taluka Bar Association, Kandiaro accompanied by fellow lawyers came to my chambers and asked to suspend court work. When I enquired about the reason for the strike, they replied that the date was 1st Muharram, the day of martyrdom of the second Caliph Hazrat Umar Farooq, and they had decided to commemorate the day by suspending court work. I was surprised and asked them whether they were sad that Hazrat Umar Farooq had been martyred for Islam. They replied no and I said that if they were not unhappy, why had they decided to go on strike and cause disturbance to the litigants who had come all the way to court to get relief. I told them that they were hampering court work as hundreds of litigants would have to suffer due to their protests in ‘honour’ of Hazrat Umar when in fact such injustices were not even going to please his soul. Then they said they were doing it because the District Bar Association had also done it. I became speechless. I thought advocates were officers of the court and should not have been disturbing the dispensation of justice. Advocates are well-acquainted with the law and are not expected to bypass the law. It has been perceived time and again that they participate in strikes either in solidarity with a fellow advocate whose complaint has not been registered by the police, or when their clients have not been compensated adequately in a court case, or even when a first information report (FIR) has been registered against an advocate or an advocate has been arrested. There is a whole list of unimportant issues over which advocates resort to strikes. There have been several incidences when advocates have gone on strike because a fellow advocate had passed away. I often ask myself why army officials do not observe strikes when soldiers die on the battlefield or why bureaucrats and judges do not protest or abstain from work when their fellow officers pass away during service. Are their lives are less precious than those of the legal community?

The resilient movement for the restoration of judiciary, once launched by advocates against a dictator, did succeed in accomplishing a positive objective, however, such drive has now twisted into strikes and boycott calls under which lawyers have been resorting to strikes even over trivial matters which can be resolved harmoniously.

The Bar and the Bench

Advocates have also assembled and boycotted courts over minor altercations with judges. They have even demanded transfers of judges from the higher-ups. If the bar and the bench are unable to resolve their issues amicably, public trust in the judiciary is certainly going to diminish. There have also been incidences when advocates have resorted to strikes in favour of particular judges. Advocates display these unwarranted acts to express the authority of the bar council/bar association by passing resolutions even against the judges of superior courts. Reasonable remedies have already been provided to these learned advocates against judges under Rule 159 of Chapter XII of Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Rules, 1976 yet they completely ignore them.

Suffering of Litigants

The primary victims of strikes are the litigants who usually have to wait to seek justice from the courts. Many innocent persons remain incarcerated behind bars. Some have been seeking justice for a very long time but their cases usually adjourn from one date to another and this vicious cycle keeps spinning. The people’s faith in the judicial system keeps shattering due to delays in adjudication often caused by unnecessary strikes. Such delays can lead to the denial of justice on a national scale and take a heavy toll on the litigants’ patience, time, hope and money.

It has been recurrently witnessed within the recent past that advocates have been boycotting court work at the slightest provocation, often overlooking the harm caused to litigants as well as themselves. When lawyers do not appear in court prepared with legal propositions, such lapse on their part shows disregard for the values of the profession, the obligation towards the court in the administration of justice and the carelessness of their duty towards their clients. Such lawyers not only commit a breach of the injunctions of Islam but also a breach of promise to their clients.17 Litigants who knock on the doors of justice should under no circumstances be made to suffer any disadvantage or difficulty in getting justice.

The Supreme Court of India has emphasized this issue in the case of Roman Services Pvt. Ltd, which held the following:

“…the question was whether a litigant should suffer a penalty because his advocate had boycotted the court pursuant to a strike call made by the association of which the advocate was a member. In answer to this question it has been held that when an advocates engaged by a party is on strike there is no obligation on the part of the court to either wait or adjourn the case on that account. It was held that this court has time and again set out that an advocate has no right to stall court proceedings on the ground that they have decided to go on a strike. In this case it was noted that in Mahabir Prasad’s case (supra), it has been held that strikes and boycotts are illegal. That the lawyers and the Bar understood that they could not resort to strikes is clear from statement of Senior Counsel Shri. Krishnamani which this court recorded”.18

Thousands of cases are fixed daily in courts and millions of people cover long distances to reach court after closing their shops and businesses and abandoning all their work to attend court hearings. When advocates call for frequent strikes, the proceedings come to a halt, causing financial loss to the litigants who have spent money to reach court. Such lawyers should be held liable to pay costs and damages to their clients for the misfortune endured by them.

Performance of Judiciary Hampered

Judicial work should not be allowed to be obstructed at any cost through intimidating or harassing practices, whether by litigants or counsel. Court proceedings become motionless due to strikes by advocates. This also raises a finger on the independence of the judiciary. The judicial process must run its course unrestrained by any boycott call by the bar or delaying tactics by any party thereof. Advocates cannot request the court to adjourn a case on the grounds of simply not wanting to join court proceedings.19

Horrible Picture of Advocacy Portrayed in Society

Advocates are upholders of justice. They are fighters for the cause of righteousness and fairness. They are soldiers in black coats and professionals in the field of law. When any person, regardless of status or position, finds herself or himself in trouble, she or he always looks for an advocate for consultation, guidance, support, protection of rights, pleading a case before the court and getting legal help.

The apex court of India, in a petition of the Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice,20 observed the following:

“It is generally believed that members of the legal relief profession have certain social obligations, e.g., to render “pro bono publico” service to the poor and the underprivileged. Since the duty of a lawyer is to assist the court in the administration of justice, the practice of law has a public utility flavour and, therefore he must strictly and scrupulously abide by the code of conduct behoving the noble profession and must not indulge in any activity which may tend to lower the image of the profession in society. That is why the functions of the bar council include the laying down of standards of professional conduct and etiquette which advocates must follow to maintain the dignity and purity of the profession.”

I recall my first visit to S.M. Law College, Karachi as a student in 2010. I read the following words printed on marble above a door frame:

“…law is a noble profession and success is only attained to those who persevere, work hard, are determined and industrious, and above all have a natural altitude for this work. This is a great profession and you owe an obligation to yourself, your people and the client who pays you. You are not there to squeeze money or bargain.”

It was a message given by Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah to law students. I felt enthusiasm and excitement and wanted to become an advocate as soon as possible. However, I felt upset when I joined the profession of advocacy and went to the City Court, Karachi. I was shocked to see the attitude of advocates towards the courts and how they were suspending court work over frivolous matters. Representatives of bar councils and members of bar associations usually write letters using the following wording:

‘The Sindh Bar Council has decided to observe full day strike/boycott of court proceedings.’

Learned advocates of all bar associations of Sindh are requested to not attend court proceedings.’

While addressing judges, the following language is usually used:

‘Your are requested to please keep suspended all judicial works and not pass any adverse orders against the parties and also issue necessary directions to the subordinate courts for the same.’

I want to respectfully ask the legal community:

  • whether judges can suspend court work at the request of advocates;
  • whether bar councils and bar associations have the authority to ask advocates to not attend the court proceedings; and
  • whether such acts communicate to the general public a positive image of the advocates.

I believe the answers will be undesirable as such practices keep damaging the respect and honour of this noble profession and require serious rethinking.

Superior Courts as Strike Breakers

Highlighted losses to the judicial system have raised cries for strong and bold actions required by the superior courts of this country. Advocates who have taken up the cases of their clients must ensure their attendance before the court or risk violating their professional conduct and decorum. A strike is a collective action identified in industrial disputes and usually occurs due to an inevitable dispute between an employer and employees. Advocates are not employees, rather they are officers of the court. The Supreme Court and High Courts may bring this scorching issue under notice and declare ‘strikes’ by advocates unconstitutional and illegal. The superior courts of Pakistan should frame rules to standardize the conduct of advocates. They ought to declare that it is the earnest duty of the judges to proceed with a case during court hours. Courts should not surrender to pressure tactics, boycotts, or threats. The court is an impartial entity and must not participate in any strike. It is obligated to proceed with cases and dispense justice to society. Courts are not obliged to adjourn a case if a strike has been announced by the bar councils or bar associations. The superior courts should deprecate and condemn acts such as strikes and boycotts and make a declaration in this regard. The Supreme Court of Pakistan may take persuasive value from a similar verdict laid down by the Supreme Court of India in the case of Harish Uppal vs U.O.I. and others,21 wherein the apex court showed discontentment over strikes by lawyers in the following ratio decidendi:

“For just or unjust cause strike cannot be justified, as sufferer is society- public at large.”

Moreover, Justice S. N. Variava held the following:

“The lawyers have no right to go on strike or give a call for boycott, not even on a token strike….The lawyers holding vakalatnamas on behalf of their clients cannot refuse to attend court proceedings in pursuance to a call for strike or boycott. All lawyers must boldly refuse to abide by any call for strike or boycott. No lawyer can be visited with any adverse consequences by the bar association or the bar council and no threat or coercion of any nature, including that of expulsion, can be held out. No bar council or bar association can permit calling of a meeting for purposes of considering a call for strike or boycott and requisition, if any, for such meeting must be ignored. Only in the rarest of rare cases where the dignity, integrity and independence of the bar and/or the bench are at stake, courts may ignore (turn a blind eye) to a protest abstention from work for not more than one day. However, it will be for the court to decide whether or not the issue involves dignity or integrity or independence of the bar and/or the bench. Therefore, in such cases, the President of the bar must first consult the Chief Justice or the District Judge before advocates decide to absent themselves from court. The decision of the Chief Justice or the District Judge would be final and have to be abided by the bar. However, the courts are under no obligation to adjourn matters because lawyers are on strike”. 22

In addition, Justice M. B. Shah presented the following concurring ruling:

“Whatever be the situation in other fields, lawyers cannot claim or justify to go on strike or give a call to boycott the judicial proceedings. The strike by lawyers is an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice [Para 40].”23

The Supreme Court of Pakistan is the ultimate protector of both the bench and the bar and its decisions are binding on all the other courts of Pakistan.24 A judge of the Supreme Court is also the chair of the Disciplinary Committee of the Pakistan Bar Council25 and the chair of the Tribunals of Bar Councils.26 When advocates present their vakalatnama for litigants, they cannot refrain from appearing in court. If they do, then they shall face disciplinary proceedings for committing a breach of duty, contract and trust and shall be held liable by the courts and bar councils to face all consequences. Such measures are the need of the hour to preserve the uprightness and development of the administration of law and justice in Pakistan.

The apex court should also pass directives for the subordinate judiciary to continue court proceedings, even in the absence of lawyers. The courts must not be a party to the stoppage of work.

Role of Bar Councils, Bar Associations and Eminent Advocates

The bar councils and bar associations, being representatives of the legal community, have been empowered by law to regulate the conduct of advocates. It is also their duty to maintain the prestige of courts and the magnificence of law. For the sake of administration of law and justice, bar councils must guarantee that no unethical behaviour will be conducted by advocates. The Pakistan Bar Council should incorporate clauses within the Disciplinary Chapter of the Bar Councils Rules, 1976 to the effect that a bar council shall not call for a strike or boycott and shall suspend the licence of any advocate who participates in a strike or boycott call. Strong enactments should be introduced into the Rules according to which bar councils and bar associations shall under no condition consider any demand calling for a conference to deliberate a call to strike and such requisitions shall be ignored for the smooth functioning of courts. Any supplement to the Rules must be resilient, for instance, if a district bar association proclaims a call to strike against a solicitous provincial bar council and its inattentiveness to take action, the Pakistan Bar Council must initiate disciplinary proceedings against the advocates who have called or participated in a strike.

In a joint meeting held on the 28th and 29th of September 2002 among members of several bar councils in India, it was determined that advocates could not adopt non-participation in court work, except under extraordinary conditions which should not last for more than one day, and such decision would only be taken by two-thirds of the members present of the relevant bar association. It was further decided that a Grievance Redressal Committee would be constituted at each level to resolve the advocates’ complaints. The Supreme Court of India, citing these developments, further noted the following:

“Whilst we appreciate the efforts made, in view of the endemic situation prevailing in the country, in our view, the above resolutions are not enough…… What is at stake is the administration of justice and the reputation of the legal profession. Nobody or authority, statutory or not, vested with powers can abstain from exercising the powers when an occasion warranting such exercise arises. It must be remembered that if such omission continues, particularly when there is an apparent threat to the administration of justice and fundamental rights of citizens, i.e. the litigating public, courts will always have the authority to compel or enforce the exercise of the power by the statutory authority. A lawyer being part and parcel of the legal system is instrumental in upholding the rule of law. A person casts with the legal and moral obligation of upholding law can hardly be heard to say that he will take law in his own hands. It is, therefore, time that self-restraint is exercised……The final decision can only be of the concerned Chief Justice or the concerned District Judge. Such final decision, whatever it be, would then have to be accepted by all and no question then arises of any further agitation [paragraph 30].”27

More recently, on 27th August 2021, senior advocate Mr. Manan Mishra, Chair of the Bar Council of India, expressed the following to the apex court bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah in an appeal filed by the District Bar Association, Dehradun with regard to a decision of the Uttarakhand High Court on observing strikes/boycotts of courts by advocates to be illegal:

“…we convened a meeting of the Council at all times with the BCI. We propose to frame rules to prevent strike boycotts, rules are being framed to punish bar association members for going on strike without proper justification.”28

Such bold and audacious steps are also required from the Pakistan Bar Council and the respective provincial bar councils to ensure that the rule of law and the administration of justice are upheld at all times. A Grievance Redressal Committee should also be constituted at the tehsil, district, provincial and national level to address the grievances of advocates. The committee must comprise of members of the bench and the bar who can work together for the improvement and advancement of the judiciary. The final deciding authority must lie with the courts and such decision must be followed by the bars. Consequently, bar representatives must first consult with the head of the district/provincial/national judiciary before deciding to remain absent from courts. In case of failure, the superior courts may suspend, or direct the bar councils to suspend, the licence of advocates.

Furthermore, every advocate in an individual capacity must confidently disregard a strike or boycott. To quote H.M Seervai, one of India’s most outstanding lawyers, jurists and distinguished scholars,

“Lawyers ought to know that at least as long as lawful redress is available to aggrieved lawyers, there is no justification for lawyers to join in an illegal conspiracy to commit a gross, criminal contempt of court, thereby striking at the heart of the liberty conferred on every person by our Constitution. The strike is an attempt to interfere with the administration of justice. The principle is that those who have duties to discharge in a court of justice are protected by the law and are shielded by the law to perform those duties, the advocates in return have to protect the courts. For, once conceded that lawyers are above the law and the law courts, there can be no limit to lawyers taking the law into their hands to paralyze the working of the courts…It is high time that the Supreme Court and the High Court make it clear beyond doubt that they will not tolerate any interference from anybody or authority in the daily administration of justice. For in no other way can the Supreme Court and the High Court maintain the high position and exercise the great powers conferred by the Constitution and the law to do justice without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.29

Senior and eminent advocates of Pakistan ought to come forward as well to address this issue because there is an absolute necessity that strikes and boycott calls must be stopped once and for all with the intention to maintain the respectability of the noble profession of advocacy, the honourableness of judiciary and the welfare of public at large.

State’s Responsibility to Ensure Speedy Justice by Reviewing Laws Regulating Conduct of Advocates

It is the main duty of the judiciary and an obligation upon the state to ensure inexpensive and expeditious justice for their subjects.30 The Constitution of Pakistan declares that “the independence of judiciary shall be fully secured.”31 However, a strike is contrary to the basic principles of ‘due process of law’ as enshrined within the Constitution.32 Every person is to be treated and dealt with in accordance with the law of the land. The apex court has held time and again that,

“No action detrimental to life, liberty, body, reputation, or property to any person could be taken except in accordance with law”.33

Any activity without the due course of law is unlawful and without jurisdiction. A strike not only violates the fundamental rights of litigants but also halts the working of the judiciary and raises serious questions over its independence. Unless the state adds new enactments to the Legal Practitioners Act, 1973 and declares that the advocates conducting or participating in strikes shall be subject to disciplinary proceedings, it is impossible to ensure speedy justice for the people.

There is a dire need for enactments protecting clients who engage advocates, pay fees to them and put their trust in them only to have their lawyers remain absent from the courts owing to strikes. Litigants should be entitled to recover compensation for the losses caused to them due to the acts of their lawyers.

The Contempt of Court Act may also be amended to add that a boycott or strike by an advocate shall amount to professional misconduct and contempt of court because the advocates participating in a strike keep their clients hostage and put their interests in jeopardy, due to which there is also interference in the dispensation of justice while confidence in the administration and of justice gets shaken as well. The licence of such advocates should be suspended for a prescribed period of time.

The Law Commission of India has also put emphasis on the need to revise the regulatory mechanism of regulatory bodies. It has suggested broad improvements in the Advocates Act, directives for disciplinary control over advocates and endorsement of suitable amendments to make the law more inclusive, thereby enabling the legislature to approve laws that will efficiently permit the authorities to enforce effective regulation.34

The Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan is also responsible for the improvement of the legal scheme in the country by way of recommendations and reforms in laws and statutes. One of the duties of the Commission is to advocate for speedy justice,35 thus it should invite suggestions from all stakeholders and deliberate upon the issue of advocates’ strikes impeding the administration of justice. Moreover, the attention of the Pakistan Bar Council and provincial bar councils ought to be drawn for the purposes of ensuring a better judicial system36 and the functioning of bar councils and bar associations should be standardized to regulate the conduct of advocates.

Alternatives to Strikes and Calls to Boycott

If strikes are declared illegitimate and unconstitutional by the superior courts of Pakistan, the Pakistan Bar Council and the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan should come up with corresponding enactments within the relevant laws and rules.

Further questions to consider:

  • What recourse will be available to the advocates to raise their voice against injustices?
  • How will protests be registered against the tactics of the executive, the policies of the judiciary and the attitude of judges?
  • How will grievances be redressed?
  • What remedy will be available to the aggrieved lawyers?

While addressing these questions, it must be clear that the resolution should be to record protest and not immobilize the judiciary (as has been seen in the Islamabad High Court incident which has been a tragedy for the black coats and the judges).37 A protest, if needed, should only be demonstrated in a reasonable manner which neither prejudices the rights of litigants nor hinders the progress of the judiciary.

Alternative ways to protest can be explored from a landmark judgment of the Indian Supreme Court in which Justice Variava shared the following:

“…protest, if any as required, can only be by giving press statements, T.V. interviews, carrying out-of-court premises banners and/or placards, wearing black or white or any colour armbands, peaceful protest marches outside and away from Court premises; going on dharnas or relay fasts, etc.”38

As discussed above, Pakistan’s Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973 and the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Rules, 1976 should also be amended to reflect the same.


There is no doubt that strikes and boycott calls by advocates offend the judicial system. The judiciary is a vital organ of the state. Without allowing it to perform its duties independently, the whole mechanism of the state will be at risk, giving rise to the situation of lawlessness. The motto of the judiciary and the state to serve the society is being compromised due to frequent strikes. The rule of law is being affected, litigants at large are suffering and a disgraceful image of advocacy is being communicated to the general public. The Constitution and other laws do not authorize advocates to observe strikes or boycotts, not even over a minor issue. The right to assembly and the freedom of expression have been guaranteed under the Constitution but such rights are subject to reasonable restrictions.


1 Legal Definition of ‘Strike’on
2 Article 16 of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973
3 Preamble of Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973
4 Chapter XII of the Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Rules 1976
5 Rule 159 of Chapter XII of the Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Rules 1976
6 Rule 165 of Chapter XII of the Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Rules 1976
7 Rule 134 of Chapter XII of the Pakistan Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Rules 1976
8 Rule 140 ‘Supra’
9 Rule 156 ‘Supra’
10 Rule 166 ‘Supra’
11 Rule 172 ‘Supra’
12 Rule 175-A ‘Supra’
13 P L D 2019 Supreme Court 318
14 2021 CLC 323 [Sindh]
15 Hussainara Khatoon v. Home Secretary, State of Bihar (1979 CriLJ 1036)
17 Sobhdar Khan vs The State (2001 CLC 1559 Karachi-High-Court-Sindh)
18 Roman Services Pvt. Ltd. vs. Subhash Kapoor reported (2001) 1 SCC 118
19 Mahabir Prasan Singh vs M/S Jacks Aviation Private Ltd (Supreme Court of India on 13 November 1998)
20 In Indian Council of Legal Aid and Advice v. Bar Council of India [1995] 1 SCR 304
21 (2003) 2 S.C.C. 45
22 Quoted Supra
23 Quoted Supra
24 Article 189 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973.
25 Section 15 of the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973
26 Section 42 of the Legal Practitioners and Bar Councils Act, 1973
27 Harish Uppal Vs. Union of India (U.O.I.) and Ors (2003) 2 S.C.C. 45
29 An article of H.M Seervai titled “Lawyers Strike and Duty of the Supreme Court”
30 Clause ‘d’ Article 37 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973
31 Preamble of ‘Supra’
32 Article 10-A of ‘Supra’
33Ayaz Ahmed Memon vs Pakistan Railways through Chairman and 8 others (2017 P.L.C. (C.S) 226)
34 (Law Commission of India Report No. 266)
38 Per S. N. Variava, J. (Harish Uppal Vs. Union of India (U.O.I.) and Ors (2003) 2 S.C.C. 45)

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of or any other organization with which he might be associated.

Imtiaz Ali Shah

Author: Imtiaz Ali Shah

The writer is a Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate and works as a Research Officer at the Legal Research Cell of the High Court of Sindh, Karachi. He also holds a Master of Arts degree in Muslim History and has been pursuing LL.D (Legum Doctor) at the University of Karachi, focusing on the comparative study of human rights in Islam and international law during the time of peace and war. He secured 2nd position in the LL.M exam conducted by the University of Karachi in 2016, the highest marks in the Law GAT-II exam in 2015, 5th position in the Civil Judge and Judicial Magistrate exam in Sindh in 2016, Grade-A throughout his Pre-Service Training and Evaluation Program at the Sindh Judicial Academy and 13 certificates and 2 awards of appreciation by the Honourable District and Sessions Judges during his service tenure.

1 comment

A well writing by the respected CJ&JM, who highlights all the aspects & gave his view over the pros & cons of strick usually called by the LD. advocates, I being an internee mostly saw every next day a strick and the suspension of court proceedings which really hurts me, I am in 3rd year & we being students while attending lectures in class rooms thinks that we will go the courts in future and will give our best, but unfortunately in practical life this is very hard to see every next day proceedings are off, firstly i was discouraged in 2019/20 when I saw a video clip on Facebook where the advocates of any particular district suspended the work & locks the doors of court & protested, I thought what will society thinks??, moreover recently a heartbroken incident taken place in Karachi between Bar & bench, what message we are giving to the society, to the victims who are coming to courts by covering long distances with an hope of justice, but whenever they got to know about suspension of work what they feels. I really appreciate this peace of writing by the Honorable judge.

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