Civilians' trial in military courts: SC refers matter to judges panel after objection on bench

Former chief justice's lawyer raises objection on bench, says a larger bench should be constituted

Abdul Qayyum Siddiqui
April 24, 2024
A policeman walks past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Pakistan October 31, 2018. — Reuters
A policeman walks past the Supreme Court building in Islamabad, Pakistan October 31, 2018. — Reuters

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday, after reservations raised against the six-member bench hearing the military courts case, referred the matter to thePractice and Procedure Committee for reconstitution of the bench.

A six-member larger bench today, headed byJustice Aminuddin and comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Hassan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan, conducted the hearing on thecivilians' trials in military courts who were involved in the May 9 incidents last year.

During the hearing,petitioner former chief justice Jawad S Khawaja's lawyer Khawaja Ahmad Hasan raised an objection on the bench, saying that a larger bench should be constituted in light ofJustice Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Yahya Afridi's note.

The lawyer said that a larger bench comprising at least nine judges should be formed to hear this case, adding thatthe real question is whether civilians can be tried in military courts or not.

On January 29, Justice Masood rescued himself from hearing intra-court appeals against civilians’ trial in military court, leading to the dissolution of a six-member larger bench.

Following the lawyer's objection to the bench, the apex courtreferred the matter to the Practice and Procedure Committee.

Today's hearing

At the outset of the hearing today, Attorney General for Pakistan Mansoor Usman Awan told the court that20 people who have completed their sentences were released before Eid-ul-Fitr.

Justice Rizvi inquired whether the verdict of the people who were released part of the court's record.

Justice Hilali ordered to bring the military court's verdict on the court record.

"The military court's verdict will tell what procedure was adopted in the trial," said Justice Waheed.

Later, Justice Mazhar said that they want to see whether the court had allowed the people permission to appoint a lawyer of their choice.

One of the petitioners and senior lawyer, Aitzaz Ahsan, said that the court did not issue certificates to those who were in custody for a year. To which, the SC said that there is no such certificate.

Lawyer Hasan said that Justice Yahya had opined that a six-member bench cannot decide this case.

To this, Justice Mazhar said that Justice Yahyaopinion cannot be called a judicial order.

Hasan then questioned howcan civilians be tried in military courts, saying that the PBF Ali case should bere-examined.

At this point, lawyer Salman Akram Raja said that this case should be heard by at least eight member bench.

Justice Waheed asked what would happen if the judges panel decide the same bench will hear the appeals. At this, Raja said that they will accept the bench.

JournalistHafeezullah Niazi became emotional during the hearing, saying that his son,Hassan Niazi is missing and he is unable to meet him.

At this, the top court instructed the AGP to inform SC after finding details about Hassan Niazi.