ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday in a majority ruling upheld the establishment of military courts in Pakistan.
Petitions challenging the 21st amendment were dismissed in a majority 11-6 vote of the 17-member SC bench. Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk and Justice Dost Muhammad announced the verdict.
In a 14-3 majority vote, petitions challenging the 18th amendment were also dismissed by the bench. Judges provided seven opinions and two additional notes on the ruling.
The judgement was to be announced by the full court bench headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk in Courtroom No 1 of the SC building. The SC office had issued a supplementary cause list heralding the announcement of the judgement.
Former Supreme Court Bar Association President Kamran Murtaza said "It's a very disappointing verdict by the apex court. The court just upheld the doctrine of necessity. We are going to file a review petition against this judgement."
Kamran Murtaza and Asma Jehangir had earlier this year petitioned against the establishment of military courts on behalf of the SCBA.
"Success for the nation"
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Special Assistant for Law Ashtar Ausaf Ali called the decision "another strike against terror", adding, "it's a success for the nation."
He said that the apex court stated that amendments which can change the country for the better can be made to the Constitution and added that military courts have been set up in order to "crush terrorists".
Ausaf said that within the next two years of operation of military courts, remaining institutions will be strengthened. "Prosecution will be improved, evidence collection will be better ... Circumstances will have improved."
He also said it is possible these circumstances have not arisen before and do not exist in any other country. "The European Union, the United States and other democracies need to understand that we need to make decisions according to our circumstances ... And we know best how to rid ourselves of terrorists."
Also read: SC stays military courts executions
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 will be the last major verdict by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk as he will attain superannuation on Aug 16.
Over a 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.
Also read: SC verdict on military courts today
─ Additional reporting by Abdul Shakoor