ISLAMABAD, July 14: The Supreme Court will restart on July 20 hearing two petitions challenging the Pakistan Army Act 1952 which requires an accused to record evidence on oath during investigation.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain will take up the petitions filed by Advocate Col (retd) Muhammad Akram, who came to prominence for defending a number of men accused of having been involved in two abortive assassination attempts on former president Pervez Musharraf in December 2003. They were sentenced by field general courts martial.
Col Akram is also a strong proponent of amending the army act in a way that the chief of the army staff or any officer designated by him should not act like court of appeal.
Talking to reporters recently, he said that under the army act the court of appeal (army chief) had the power to enhance the punishment awarded to an accused by the Field General Court Martial (FGCM).
Col Akram had challenged the concept of court of appeal under the army act and the Pakistan Air Force Act Rules 1957 in the Federal Shariat Court which rejected his petitions in 2008.
However, in its verdict the Shariat Court had asked the federal government to amend both the acts within six months and allow convicts to get copy of judgments and other record of the case to enable them to file appeals.
The Shariat Court held that refusing to give copies of judgment, despositions or other record of the case to a convict was tantamount to denial of justice because he would not be in a position to furnish grounds against his conviction in appeal.
“We accordingly direct the federal government to take steps within six months for amendment of Rules of the Pakistan Army Act 1952 and the Pakistan Air Force Act Rules 1957 ensuring supply of judgment, despositions and other record of the case to all persons to whom sentence has been awarded whether under Hudood laws or any other laws,” the Shariat Court said in its order while disposing of the two petitions.
Col Akram later challenged the verdict in the Appellate Shariat Bench of the Supreme Court contending that the FSC had given its judgment on the matter which was a side issue.
The real issue, he said, was that the appeal by those sentenced by the field general court martial should be heard, instead of a court of appeal, by a forum which was not under the chain of command of the armed forces and comprised learned people with complete grasp of legal issues.
Col Akram said he believed Article 10-A of the Constitution guaranteed every citizen right to a fair trial and due process and it demanded establishment of a court of appeal comprising judges of superior judiciary, instead of uniformed personnel.
He told Dawn that he had challenged in the Supreme Court rules 47 and 48 of the army act which required an accused liable to be cross-examined on oath as well as prosecution witnesses to depose their statements on oath.
The ministry of defence has already submitted to the Supreme Court its reply stating that amendments to the act have been made in accordance with the law.