ISLAMABAD: As a six-judge Supreme Court bench resumes on Monday the hearing of a set of intra-court appeals (ICA) in the case of civilians’ military trial, a petition has been filed in the apex court to restrain federal and provincial governments from engaging a private counsel to plead the matter.

Moved through senior counsel Faisal Siddiqui on behalf of some of the respondents, the fresh application requested the court to issue directions that only attorney general for Pakistan (AGP) should plead the case.

Headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, the six-judge bench which will take up the ICAs, also comprises Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan.

Earlier on Dec 13, 2023, the Supreme Court, by a majority of five to one, had suspended the short order of October 23 that declared as unconstitutional the trial of 103 civilians identified in relation to their alleged involvement in the May 9 violence.

Intra-court appeals to be heard today

The plea against hiring the private counsel argued that the AGP office filed five ICAs on behalf of federal government, but the ministries of defence, interior and Balochistan government engaged private counsel to represent them during the appeals.

This act of federal and and provincial governments to engage private counsel is “against the binding directions laid down by SC,” the application contended.

It cited the court’s order in the 2017 Rasheed Ahmad case which laid down the circumstances in which the government can engage a private counsel.

The engagement of private counsel could only be sanctioned for compelling reasons and in the public interest and not to protect or save a particular individual or for any other ‘ulterior motives’, the application said.

The federal as well as the Balochistan governments brought forth no certificate or approval to show that a private counsel was to be engaged as AGP and other law officers in his office were incapable of attending to the case, whether due to lack of constitutional or technical expertise or otherwise, the petition noted.

Therefore, in view of the lack of such certificate or approval, no private counsel could appear or argue on behalf of the federal and the provincial governments, the petitioners argued.

Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2024

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