KARACHI: The Supreme Court’s move to throw out trials of civilians by military courts was widely welcomed across the board, with legal experts hailing it as a brave step by the court and the PTI celebrating its positive impact on their own people’s cases.

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) warmly welcomed the decision, saying in a tweet: “Military courts do not meet the standards of fair trial, nor are such trials likely to be impartial or independent, as the administration of justice warrants.”

Aitzaz Ahsan, who was also one of the petitioners in the case, descri­bed the verdict as ‘very important’ and noted that it would also “stren­gthen democracy, the Constitution, and the judicial system.”

“The decision is so important that every institution must realise now that Supreme Court has made it clear that the law is above you,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) spokesperson Raoof Has­­­­­san hailed the judgement saying the order will help transfer cases of their workers from the military cou­rts to the ordinary criminal courts.

Lawyer and columnist Reema Omar wrote on X formerly known as Twitter that the judgement is ‘truly historic.’

“This provision bring civilians accused of certain crimes related to the military under the ambit of the Army Act, including for their military trials,” she wrote.

“Not only does it mean 9-10 May violence accused will be tried by regular courts, it would also allow other civilians convicted by mil courts (eg Idrees Khattak) opportunity for relief and prevent such military injustice in future,” she added.

Barrister Asad Rahim Khan called the SC’s order ‘courageous and potentially expansive’.

“While upholding an ageless principle — that civilians cannot be tried by military tribunals as long as civilian courts are functional — it has also struck down exceptions to the rule,” he told Dawn.com.

He said that today’s verdict has restored faith and trust in courts, reminding “why citizens still look to the court for justice”.

Lawyer Rida Hosain termed it ‘a historic and brave decision.’

“Court-martial proceedings are grossly unfair — serving army officers with no legal training act as judges; there is no right to a reasoned judgement with decisions often simply stating ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’; trials take place in secret; and there is no meaningful right to appeal,” she remarked.

Lawyer Hassan A. Niazi called the verdict ‘an excellent and brave step.’ “An excellent and brave step by the Supreme Court to show that there is still life left in our constitution despite the setbacks of the past year. It must now guard against attempts to subvert this decision,” he wrote on his X account.

“The current form of the Constitution does not permit civilian trials in military courts, and any such attempt can only be pursued through a constitutional amendment,” lawyer Ayman Zafar said.

Another legal expert, Muhammad Ahmad Pansota, also expressed his approval of the verdict, saying that the basic principle upon which the entire proceedings was that a civilian should not and must not be subjected to trial under the Military Act or within a military court.

“I think that principle has been settled in the judgement by the Sup­reme Court today. Also, the amendments that were made by the government to regulate the trial of the accused persons, they also appear to have been struck down or have been declared unconstitutional,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2023

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