SC rejects plea for full court over civilians military trial

ISLAMABAD   -  The Supreme Court of Pakistan Wednesday turned down the civil society’s request to constitute a Full Court for hearing the petitions against the trial of civilians by military courts. A six-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Ayesha A Malik conducted hearing of the petition.

At the outset of the proceeding, AGP Mansoor Usman Awan submitted that the assurances have been given before the apex court about the 102 persons, who are in military custody. He told that the facilities like visitation by families are afforded to the detenues. Safeguards in trial are; they can engage counsel of their choice as it happens in ordinary court. Similarly, the military courts judgments would be detailed with findings, and no likelihood of capital punishment or life imprisonment.

He said that the respect and dignity of the detenues will be ensured and none of them will be mistreated. They are afforded medical care and the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) vicinity is stand by if any of the detenue need medical treatment.

Before announcing that Full Court cannot be constituted, the Chief Justice called Faisal Siddiqui and said: “We have heard you Siddiqui sahib, you are well respected not only because of the professional skills, but humanistic nature. We have seen you helping the poor people seeking justice.” He added, “We appreciate your concerns.”

The Chief Justice asked Faisal Siddiqui, counsel of civil society members, that they had heard him and discussed the matter of constituting a Full Court. He said for two reasons the larger bench could not function. Firstly, constituted as presently there are some judges of this bench who are on summer vacation, but they came back for hearing of this case. He further said, “There has to be time limit.”

He continued that secondly, there are other judges of this bench who are waiting to be relieved, but because of this case they are here. He maintained, “In view of that Full Court is not available till 2nd week of September.” He said, “We don’t look for anyone’s support except of Allah Almighty. We continue to work whether someone like it or not or criticise” “People of Pakistan and the history will decide which law will prevail, therefore we will carry on with these proceeding,” the Chief Justice said. The Attorney General for Pakistan informed the bench that the legislation to provide appeal against the military courts judgments is underway. He submitted that he has to seek instruction from the JAG Branch. He said that he had discussion with the Adjutant General, a 3-star General, a concerned officer where the rules are considered. He said, “I will go back again and have discussion and they might address the petitioners concern of providing appeal to High Court that can examine the entire process. He added, “Tomorrow I may come back with some roadmap.”

However, he said that there are four aspects of it i.e. i) persons who are not citizens of Pakistan, but come under the Army Act because of the espionage and charged under Official Secrets Act. There matter went to International Court of Justice under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. ii) Others are the citizens of Pakistan, but are charged with espionage and charged under Official Secrets Act. iii) Citizens or not citizens of Pakistan but were arrested on basis of terrorism and charged under Army Act. iv) People already subject to the Army Act. Later, the bench deferred the hearing of the case till today.

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