SC to take up pleas challenging military trials of civilians on Oct 23

Published October 20, 2023
This photo combo shows Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Ayesha Malik. Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi. — Supreme Court website
This photo combo shows Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Ayesha Malik. Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi. — Supreme Court website

A five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court will take up about a dozen petitions challenging the trials of civilians in military courts on October 23 (Monday).

Following the May 9 violence, the National Assembly had passed a resolution demanding that the rioters be tried under the Army Act. Days later, the army had revealed that military proceedings against “102 miscreants” were under way.

Led by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, the bench includes Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Ayesha Malik.

According to the cause list issued by the apex court, the hearing is scheduled to begin at 11:30am on October 23.

The pleas include those filed by the PTI, former premier Imran Khan, the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), PPP leader Aitzaz Ahsan, former chief justice of Pakistan Jawwad S Khawaja, five members of the civil society, Junaid Razzaq and Zaman Khan Vardag.

The last time a six-judge SC bench had taken up challenges to the trial of civilians in military courts was on August 3.

The same month, the Supreme Court had rejected a plea, filed by senior counsel Faisal Siddiqi on behalf of civil society activists, to constitute a full court for the case.

The next day, it postponed further proceedings for an indefinite period, despite requests by the petitioners to conclude and decide the matter during that week.

Ex-CJP Justice Umar Ata Bandial had observed that the court did not want to see the Pakistan Army pointing their guns at civilians, since they were meant to defend the country and its people. “The court would want to res­train the Pakistan Army from taking any unconstitutional step,” he had noted.

A day ago, CJP Qazi Faez Isa, while hearing a different petition, had observed the court intends to hear important cases — such as the trial of civilians by military courts and election matters — in the coming weeks.

During a hearing on June 27, the federal government had assured the court that, up to that date, no formal trial had commenced against 102 individuals held by military authorities in connection with the May 9 incidents of violence and arson.

Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan had told the court that all the accused were still under investigation, and no trial ultimately would be conducted in a summary manner.

Recently, an application was filed before the apex court to fix the military court case as early as possible, preferably in the third week of October.

The applicant, Junaid Razzaq, had pleaded that he had been informed that the trial of civilians by the military courts had commenced in sheer violation of the Supreme Court’s directions.

The applicant had pleaded that an early hearing would be in the interest of justice. Otherwise, if the trial of his son, Azam Junaid, commenced and concluded hastily, the petitioner would suffer an irreparable loss.

He had also pleaded with the court to declare that the referral of his son’s trial to the military authorities was unlawful, unconstitutional and void. The court should also declare Section 2(1)(d)(ii) and 59(4) of the Pakistan Army Act 1952 as ultra vires of the Constitution, he had contended.

Pleas seeking polls in 90-day timeframe

 This photo combo shows Justice Athar Minallah (L), CJP Qazi Faez Isa (C) and Justice Aminuddin Khan (R). — Supreme Court website
This photo combo shows Justice Athar Minallah (L), CJP Qazi Faez Isa (C) and Justice Aminuddin Khan (R). — Supreme Court website

Separately, the Supreme Court will also take up on the same day four pleas seeking the holding of general elections within the constitutional timeframe of 90 days from the dissolution of the National Assembly on August 9.

The three-member bench that will hear the pleas is led by CJP Isa and includes Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Aminuddin Khan.

The petitions include one moved by the PTI, which had been returned on September 15 with objections. Another one had been filed by the SCBA in August, which sought directives to the ECP to announce polls within the 90-day time period mandated by the Constitution.

The other two pleas were filed by (retd) Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi, a former Lahore High Court judge, and Advocate Munir Ahmad.

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