ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial on Wednesday turned down a request to constitute a “full court” consisting of all available judges.
“Let the people decide what law should prevail in the country,” CJP Bandial emphasised while heading a six-judge SC bench that rejected a fresh application moved by senior counsel Faisal Siddiqi seeking a full-court bench to hear the matter.
“So we continue with the work while being detached with the fear of criticism or being liked by some since these are matters for the history and the people of Pakistan to judge,” the CJP said, adding that work of court was a duty under the Constitution.
At the hearing, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan claimed he could not attend several recent meetings held to draft amendments in the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and the Official Secrets Act (OSA), but he had a discussion with the adjutant general at GHQ.
“I can say that some legislation is under way to grant the right of appeal against the decisions of the court martial of the 102 suspects awaiting trial in respect of the May 9 violence and arson for attacking different military installations,” Mr Awan said.
However, before providing this right, there were some legal concerns that needed consideration, he added.
He recalled that persons who are not citizens of Pakistan also become subject to PAA on espionage charges, such as Indian spy Kulbushan Jadhav. Similarly, citizens who were charged with espionage and then court-martialed, or citizens engaged with terrorist activities for targeting military installations, etc., could also be subject to the two laws.
“We are working out a mechanism and, if perhaps some mechanism [can be] carved out by providing appeal before the high courts and allowing constitutional courts to examine the entire process of the military trial. Perhaps then the concerns of the petitioners might be addressed,” AGP argued, but hastened to add that these things might require some time, and he may then come out with a certain roadmap, although the present government may not be there after a week or so.
If AGP comes out with some positive answer, the CJP observed, then he would be assisting the court in addressing the concerns of the petitioner, otherwise the court has to look into the question of Article 175 of the Constitution, which ensures the independence of the judiciary through separation of the judiciary from the executive.At the outset, AGP again assured the court that none of 102 suspects under the custody of the armed forces were being mistreated in an inhumane manner; rather, they were being dealt with dignity and self-respect. The case will be taken up again on Thursday (today).
Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2023