ISLAMABAD: Another challenge to the trial of civilians in military courts landed before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, this time filed by retired Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, a former chief justice of Pakistan (CJP).

In the petition, filed thr­ough his counsel Khawaja Ahmad Hosain, Justice Khawaja requested the Supreme Court to declare that since ordinary courts were functioning, the court martial of civilians is unconstitutional.

This is the fourth petition on the subject to have come up in the apex court. The first was submitted by PTI chief Imran Khan seeking a declaration against the arrests, investigation and trial of civilians under the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) of 1952 as well as the Official Secrets Act 1923.

But the apex court’s office returned the petition with certain objections on June 6.

Later, a five-member civil society group moved a petition through their counsel Faisal Siddiqi seeking a declaration from the Supreme Court that the trial of civilians in military courts is illegal.

Recently, former law minister Aitzaz Ahsan also moved a similar petition.

Now the former CJP, Jawwad S. Khawaja, has pleaded in his petition that Sections 2(1)(d)(i) and (ii) of the Pakistan Army Act are inconsistent with the fundamental rights conferred by the Constitution and therefore should be struck down.

As an alternative, the petition argued, the PAA sections cannot be enforced when ordinary courts are functioning and, therefore, civilians cannot be court martialled in these circumstances.

The petition also pleaded that the respondents maintain and furnish a list of all civilians in military custody, together with details about their places of detention.

Published in Dawn, June 21st, 2023

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