ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Monday asked the relatives of five convicted naval officers to file a representation before the naval chief to seek any relief.

An IHC division bench comprising Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani also directed the naval authorities to share details of the trial proceeding against these officers with the defence counsel.

Assistant Attorney General Far­rukh Dall pointed out that the record in the case was sensitive in nature and sharing its details might not be in the national interest.

“This is a case of capital punishment, the convict would be hanged, they have every right to get through the relevant record,” remarked Justice Farooq.

The bench observed that if the record was sensitive, the defence counsel might be instructed not to release it to the media or any other person.

At the outset, Mr Dall challenged the maintainability of the petition, saying that under the Pakistan Navy Ordinance, 1961, after the conviction in a court martial and upholding of sentence by the naval court of appeal, the convict might file representation before the naval chief.

He said that under Section 135 of the ordinance, the naval chief has the authority to set aside or reduce the sentence or completely quash the trial proceedings.

The bench asked the defence counsel, retired Lt Col Inamur Rahim, and retired Major Waheed, as well as the convicts’ relatives to file the representation before the naval chief first. It said the relatives might return to the court in case their grievances were not addressed.

A Navy tribunal sentenced five officers to death on Sept 6, 2014, in the Karachi Naval Dockyard attack case. Five were charged with having links with the militant Islamic State group, mutiny, hatching a conspiracy and carrying weapons in the dockyard.

However, according to media reports, the attackers were purportedly planning to hijack the warship PNS Zulfiqar to use it in an attack on one of the US navy’s refuel ships. Two militants were killed and four others apprehended by security personnel.

The defence counsel informed the court that the convicted officers were not given the defence counsel.

He said the father of one of the convicts had written a letter to the naval authorities about provision of defence counsel to his son. In response they informed him that this issue would be taken up at the time of trial.

Mr Dall told the court that senior naval officers, including a commodore, had been appointed defence counsel in this case.

Advocate Rahim, on the other hand, said the convicts claimed that they had not been provided the defence counsel during the court martial and the decision in this case was given without providing them proper opportunity of defence.

He said that there were certain anomalies in the trial proceedings which could be pointed out after detailed perusal of the record. He gave an undertaking to the court for keeping the entire record confidential and using this in preparing the representation to the naval chief.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2019