SC begins hearing pleas challenging military trials of civilians

A seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court was constituted to hear petitions challenging military trials of civilians.  Supreme Court website
A seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court was constituted to hear petitions challenging military trials of civilians. Supreme Court website

Islamabad: The Supreme Court on Friday resumed hearing on constitutional petitions challenging the decision to try civilians in military courts for their alleged involvement in the violent May 9 protests.

The government had decided to prosecute civilians in military courts after protesters affiliated with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) vandalized army installations following the arrest of their party chief.

Filed separately by five civil society members, including PTI chairman Imran Khan, former chief justice Jawad S Khawaja, legal expert Aitzaz Ahsan and Pilar executive director Karamat Ali, the top court has been urged to declare the military trials unconstitutional .

A nine-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial took up the arguments on Thursday. However, the bench was dissolved after two members, Justice Qazi Faiz Isa and Justice Tariq Masood, objected to it.

Taking exception to the constitution of the bench, Justice Isa said he “did not consider the nine-judge bench as a bench”, supported by Justice Masood.

Justice Isa insisted that the court should first decide on the Supreme Court Practice and Procedure Act, 2023 and then constitute new benches.

CJP Bandyal had said that since two senior judges had raised questions on the bench, the law could be stayed.

The hearing was then resumed by a seven-judge bench, comprising CJP Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Ayesha Malik and Justice Mazahir Ali Naqvi.

The chief justice, before adjourning the hearing, said the apex court would conclude the case “soon” and asked the government to provide full details of arrests made after the May 9 mayhem.

“It is not right to issue a stay order on everything,” the CJP said when asked by Latif Khosa, counsel for barrister Aitzaz Ahsan.

Earlier, the judges had asked Khosa to explain to the court the law on the basis of which the sentence was being awarded, and on what basis civilian cases in anti-terrorism courts were being transferred to military courts.

When asked why civilians are not mentioned in the Pakistan Army Act, Justice Shah said he believed that civilian laws have harsher punishments than military laws.

The CJP also said that private conversations were recorded and confidentiality was breached.

The court was also informed that “the military trial of the civilians is underway”.

This is a developing story and is being updated with more details.

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