Larger PHC bench sought to hear pleas of military court convicts

Updated October 02, 2019

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The federal government has requested the Peshawar High Court to constitute a larger bench for hearing 170 petitions filed against convictions of militants by military courts saying in the past, different division benches had given conflicting judgments.— APP/File
The federal government has requested the Peshawar High Court to constitute a larger bench for hearing 170 petitions filed against convictions of militants by military courts saying in the past, different division benches had given conflicting judgments.— APP/File

PESHAWAR: The federal government has requested the Peshawar High Court to constitute a larger bench for hearing 170 petitions filed against convictions of militants by military courts saying in the past, different division benches had given conflicting judgments.

An application for the purpose was filed by additional attorney general Manzoor Khalil on behalf of the ministries of law and justice and defence seeking the formation of a larger bench for hearing the petitions filed either by those convicted by military courts or their family members.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor took up for hearing the application on Tuesday and issued notice to the counsel for the petitioners asking them to respond to the plea of the federal government on Nov 5 and adjourned the hearing until then.

Court issues notices to petitioners for reply to govt plea

The court adjourned hearing into those 170 petitions challenging convictions by military courts mostly the award of death penalties to convicts.

Additional attorney general Manzoor Khalil and Aamir Jawed appeared for the federal government, while advocate general Shumail Ahmad Butt represented the provincial government.

The high court has been conducting in-camera proceedings in military courts cases.

Scores of lawyers, including Lateef Afridi, Shabbir Hussain Gigyani, Arif Jan, Danyal Asad Chamkani, Ziaur Rehman Tajik, Barrister Amirullah Chamkani, Naveed Akhtar, Sajeed Afridi, have been appearing before the court for the petitioners.

Shumail Butt and Manzoor Khalil pointed out that in the past, the benches headed by then Chief Justice Mazhar Alam Miankhel and Yahya Afridi had upheld over 65 judgments of military courts and rejected several petitions against those judgments.

They also said last year, a bench headed by the current Chief Justice Waqar Seth, had accepted around 75 petitions against convictions by military courts.

Mr Butt and Mr Khalil said that judgment was challenged in the Supreme Court, which had suspended it and that the appeals had been pending there since.

They questioned if the bench would follow the judgment delivered last year or earlier.

Mr Butt and Mr Khalil said they requested the court to constitute a larger bench for deciding that question.

The court has been seeking respective records in these cases for many months to decide these petitions. However, the government has yet to act accordingly.

The petitions are filed against convictions by military courts from time to time. The court has already granted interim relief to these convicts and stayed their executions on separate dates.

Most petitions have claimed that the convicts concerned were taken into custody by the security forces many years ago before being kept incommunicado.

They claimed that their relatives remained missing for many years and they learned about their conviction through media reports.

Some petitioners claimed that they found their missing relatives in internment centres and the media reported later that those men were sentenced to death by a military court.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2019