SC verdict on military courts today

Published August 5, 2015
The SC would approve or disapprove setting up of nine courts manned by military officers to try hardcore terrorists.—Online/File
The SC would approve or disapprove setting up of nine courts manned by military officers to try hardcore terrorists.—Online/File

ISLAMABAD: The capital is abuzz with speculation about the fate of the 21st Amendment in the Constitution as the 17-judge full court bench of the Supreme Court is set to announce its long-awaited verdict on Wednesday.

The judgement will be announced by the full court bench headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk in Courtroom No. 1 of the Supreme Court building. The SC office has issued a supplementary cause list heralding the announcement of the judgement.

Also read: Asma says 21st amendment suicide attack on parliament

On Tuesday lawyers in the Supreme Court were busy gossiping and theorising whether the apex court would approve or disapprove setting up of nine special courts manned by military officers to try hardcore terrorists. These courts were set up under the 21st Amendment.

Some were of the view that the verdict might run to hundreds of pages, with additional notes by a number of judges and possibly with a few dissenting opinions. However, no one expected a unanimous judgement.

The Parliament passed the 21st Amendment and the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, to establish the special courts after the massacre in the Army Public School, Peshawar, last year.

On April 16 the apex court had suspended executions of six militants who were awarded death sentence by these military courts.

The stay order was issued on an application filed by rights activist Asma Jehangir on behalf of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) after army chief Gen Raheel Sharif had ratified the death sentence to six militants and life imprisonment to one by the military courts.

The judgement on the 21st Amendment as well as the 18th Amendment would be the last major verdict by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk as he will attain superannuation on Aug 16.

The chief justice also authored the July 23 finding of the inquiry commission which had rejected PTI’s allegations of rigging in the 2013 general elections.

Over five-month long hearing on the challenges to the 18th and 21st amendments was wrapped up by the Supreme Court on June 26.

A total of 31 constitutional petitions were taken up by the court, of which 16 petitions were regarding 18th Amendment the rest were about 21st amendment.

The 18th Amendment was passed by the Parliament during the last PPP government which introduced a new procedure for the appointment of superior court judges. The final judgement in the 18th Amendment case is still pending with the Supreme Court for the last four years though a full-court bench headed by then Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had issued an order on Oct 21, 2010, suggesting that guidelines in the mode of appointment of superior court judges under Article 175-A of the constitution.

Later the Parliament brought the 19th Amendment by accepting almost all the proposals and incorporating in the Constitution as suggested by the Supreme Court.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2015

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