Justice Ijazul Ahsan on Monday voiced objections to the benches formed to hear appeals against the top court’s verdict on the military trials of civilians and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi’s petitions challenging the show-cause notice issued to him.
He made the remarks in a letter to the secretary of the three-member committee tasked with forming SC benches after the top court upheld a law regulating its affairs.
A six-judge SC bench will take up on Dec 13 a set of intra-court appeals (ICAs) against its Oct 23 unanimous verdict declaring the trial of 103 civilians in military courts for their alleged involvement in the May 9 violence as against the Constitution.
The bench will be headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and comprise Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan.
In the letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Justice Ahsan talked about the committee meeting held on December 7.
Justice Ahsan highlighted that the committee had agreed to a seven-member bench hearing appeals against the SC’s verdict on civilians’ military trails as the original judgment was issued by a five-member bench.
“I categorically and in clear terms stated that in order to dispel any impression of pick and choose, all judges of this court in the order of seniority be included in the appellate bench,” he said.
Justice Ahsan said that CJP Isa had agreed to this but also said that “he would ask the honourable judges and if any judge does not want to sit on the bench, the next available judge be included”.
The letter said the aforementioned principle was also agreed upon for cases mentioned in “Sr. Nos 3 to 6” adding that “after asking the proposed members of the two benches, the members of the committee would be informed”.
Justice Ahsan said he had waited all day on Friday for information about the two benches but to no avail despite his office contacting the secretary’s staff at least thrice.
“At least three phone calls were made to you but my office was informed that the file with your note had been sent to the CJP,” Justice Ahsan said. “The last call was made at 6:30pm when your office stated that you had left for the day,” he added.
Justice Ahsan further said he did not receive the minutes of the fourth or fifth meeting over the weekend, highlighting that “neither of the minutes have been seen or signed by me, yet these have been uploaded” on the SC website.
The judge emphasised that it was his right and duty to ensure that the minutes reflected accurately “what was discussed in the meeting, what were the points of view of the members of the committee and if there was any unanimity or a difference of opinion”.
Justice Ahsan said the minutes of the fifth meeting prepared and uploaded by the secretary “most certainly failed to do so”.
He made it clear in the letter that the two special benches were not constituted by the committee nor were they placed before it in the meeting.
“Had these been placed before the committee, I could have agreed, disagreed, or refrained from giving my views,” Justice Ahsan wrote in the letter. “This has not happened to date,” he said.
The judge deplored that a six-member bench was notified to hear the case concerning the military trials of civilians despite agreeing on the constitution of a seven-member bench.
“I am totally in the dark if any of the judges who are higher in the order of seniority had refrained from sitting on the bench,” he said.
The judge said the three-member bench constituted to hear pleas under Article 184 (3) of the Constitution did not comprise judges in the order of seniority.
“I have the greatest respect for each and every judge […] but as a matter of principle and in the interest of transparency and to maintain the dignity and honour of this court, the rule of seniority was agreed to be followed to hear these matters,” the letter read.
Justice Ahsan concluded that he wrote this letter “to set the record straight”.
“In view of the fact that you have uploaded the minutes of the meeting without even showing them to me, let alone getting my signatures, I expect this note will also be uploaded on the Supreme Court website immediately.”
The letter was also copied to CJP Isa and the rest of the Supreme Court judges.