Pakistan: CJP hopes military courts to not try civilians till outcome of case


ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial said on Monday that he hoped that no trial of civilians will be initiated in military courts until the outcome of proceedings against them.

The top judge made the remarks as the six-member larger bench headed by CJ Bandial resumed the hearing of petitions challenging the trial of civilians in military courts.

Earlier in the day, the seven-member bench hearing the pleas was dissolved after the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP) objected to Justice Mansoor Ali Shah’s inclusion in the bench.

As the hearing resumed, CJ Bandial also said 102 individuals who are in the custody of the military should be allowed to hold meetings with their family members.

AGP Mansoor Usman Awan sought time to take instruction from relevant quarters in this regard.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief’s counsel Uzair Bhandari again requested the SC’s bench for the formation of an independent judicial commission to probe the May 9 incidents. However, the CJP ignored his plea by saying, “These are political goals and inspiration”.

In his remarks, the attorney general said that if the 102 people don’t come under the jurisdiction of the military courts in the investigation, their cases will be tried in ordinary courts.

Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi asked the AGP what was the rationale behind “the pick and choose” of these individuals. To this, Awan said that those who entered prohibited places have been taken into custody.

He also said that a trial before military courts is yet to start as the investigation is still ongoing.

Subsequently, the apex court asked the attorney general to submit complete details of the 102 individuals on June 27 and adjourned the hearing of the case till tomorrow.

SC bench dissolves again

Last week, the nine-member bench led by the CJP was dissolved after Justice Qazi Faez Isa, who has already been notified as the next CJP three months in advance, took exception to the bench.

He said parliament had passed the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act, 2023 which outlines a procedure for the formation of benches in cases related to Article 184(3).

He added according to the law, the CJP is supposed to hold a meeting with senior SC judges if he wants to exercise the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction under Article 184(3).

Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, the third senior-most judge on the bench, agreed with Justice Isa. He asked how many judges will hear an appeal if the top court declares the SC act valid.

At the onset of the hearing today, AGP Awan told the court that he has been instructed by the government that Justice Shah should not be a part of the bench.

Irked at the statement, CJ Umar Ata Bandial stated, “The bench will not be made by your will”. “On what basis is the federal government raising objection on Justice Shah?” questioned CJ Bandial.

To this, the AGP replied that the objection has been raised due to a “conflict of interest” as petitioner former CJ Jawad S Khawaja is related to Justice Shah.

The CJ then remarked that there are no doubts about the competence of the judge against whom the objection is being raised, noting that the government earlier has also raised such objections.

“Does the government want to make the bench controversial again?” remarked the CJ.

During the hearing, CJ Bandial also noted that the top court had refrained from taking strict action against the government for not implementing the order of holding elections within 90 days following the dissolution of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) assemblies.

He added that he has never been part of a bench where there is suspicion of partiality on him. He further told the AGP that the SC is taunted for having ‘like-minded’ judges, adding that “our government always talks about the formation of benches and at times it is objected”.

“You are an able lawyer. Hold good character and values,” he told Awan. He further asked the AGP “What do you want to do? We have always shown restraint”.

The apex court top judge added that it is time for everyone to take a step back and that following the decisions of the court is a moral responsibility.

“We have no stick to ensure the implementation of decisions. Many people have a stick but what moral justification do they have,” he added.

“Shall we ask the prime minister why an objection has been raised on the basis of a family relationship?” remarked the CJ.

Justice Bandial noted that Justice Shah is a sensible person and “not the kind of person whose decision would be influenced because of his relationship”.

“Do not tarnish and ridicule the Supreme Court,” remarked the chief justice.

However, following the objection, Justice Shah recused himself from the bench. “I can no longer be a part of this bench,” he said.

Petitioner Aitzaz Ahsan’s counsel Latif Khosa then made his remarks and said that today is a dark day in the judicial history of the country.

“This is a case of fundamental rights, there is no objection on the bench,” stated the lawyer for the petitioner Salman Akram Raja.

The CJ then said that the court will decide the next course of action after mutual