Pakistan: Military trials; SC registrar returns contempt petition against defence secy


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Registrar’s Office has refused to entertain a contempt petition filed by civil society members against the defence secretary for “deliberately and malafidely” violating the court’s October 23 judgment declaring trials of civilians in military courts unconstitutional.

The office has returned the petition with objections. The registrar stated that the judgment already stands as suspended, hence, the contempt petition is not maintainable.

In a nine-page petition, the civil society members, through their counsel Faisal Siddiqi, argued that civilians arrested in connection with the May 9 and 10 riots should be tried under criminal courts, ending their illegal detention under military authorities.

The petition maintained that the apex court has been “disobeyed” by the “alleged contemnor” for violating its previous ruling “passed in constitutional petition Nos. 24 to 28, 30, and 35 of 2023″.

It further stated that Secretary of Defence Lt Gen (retd) Hamooduz Zaman Khan “deliberately” violated an order passed in October declaring military trials of civilians under the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, as “unconstitutional”.

Moreover, the petition highlighted that the arrested accused have been under “unconstitutional detention” for the last 43 days.

The civil society members also stated that the defence secretary had failed to issue an order for the transfer of custody of the accused persons to the criminal court and demanded an end to the continuing detention by military authorities as “unconstitutional”, terming it a clear violation of court orders.

The petition requested immediate compliance with the previous order to uphold the “majesty of law”.

A five-judge bench of the apex court on Oct 23 unanimously declared the trial of civilians in military courts as null and void and ordered that the 103 accused in cases relating to the violence on May 9 and 10, 2023 be tried under ordinary criminal laws.

The court through the 4-1 majority also declared certain clauses of the Army Act as ultra vires the Constitution and of no legal effect. One judge of the bench, reserved his verdict on one para, though siding with the bench on the remaining paras.

The bench, led by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and including Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Mazahir Naqvi, and Justice Ayesha Malik heard the petitions that had challenged the trial of civilians allegedly involved in the May 9 violence in the military courts.

The petitions were filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan; chief justice (retd) Jawwad S.Khawaja; Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA); Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan; Karamat Ali; Zaman Khan Vardag; Junaid Razzaq; Hafeezullah Niazi; Lt Col (retd) Inam-ul-Rahiem and Naeemuddin