Pakistan Supreme Court bans civilian trial in military court

Pakistan SC bans civillian trial in military court
Pakistan SC judges involved in case (Photo: Mews Intervention)

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has ruled to nullify the civilian trial in military courts. This significant judgment comes after a rigorous legal process that engaged a five-member large bench, with Supreme Court Justice Aajjaz Al-Hassan presiding. The bench included esteemed justices Maneeb Akhtar, Ahmed Afridi, Mohammad Ali Akbar Naqvi, and Aaishhu Malk.

Justice Aajjaz Al-Hassan, reading the concise judgment, revealed that the decision passed with a majority of four to one, with Justice Ahmed Afridi dissenting from the majority’s ruling. The ruling particularly declared Section 2D One as unconstitutional.

Hearing on May 9 instance

In effect, the verdict unequivocally states that military courts can not hold civilian trials, emphasizing that the trial of 103 individuals linked to events on May 9th must be conducted solely in criminal courts.

At the outset of the hearing, lawyer Salman Akram Raju highlighted instances of military courts initiating trials for civilians despite previous assurances. In response, Justice Aajzaz Al-Hassan expressed awareness of the matter and announced the court’s intention to hear the Attorney General.

During the proceedings, Attorney General Usman Mansoor assured the court that all requirements of Article 10A of the Pakistani Constitution would be met. He stated that appeals would be filed in the High Court and later in the Supreme Court. Additionally, the Attorney General referenced various judicial decisions and argued that military courts could address prohibited areas and attacks on buildings.

In response, the Chief Justice inquired whether a constitutional amendment was necessary to distinguish between the trial of terrorists and common citizens. The Attorney General contended that such an amendment was unnecessary as long as the accused had direct links with the Armed Forces.

Army act relates to corruption within Armed forces

Justice Aaishhu Malik pointed out that the Army Act deals primarily with issues related to corruption within the armed forces, and Justice Mohammad Ali Naqvi urged the Attorney General to review the Army Act cover. Justice Aajzaz Al-Hassan emphasized that the law was evidently crafted for individuals within the armed forces and questioned how its connection with the civilian population could be established.

The Attorney General argued that the Army Act also encompasses officers who prevent others from performing their duties, even civilians. However, Justice Aaishhu Malk questioned the potential implications for fundamental rights in such circumstances.

The Attorney General clarified that the Army Act includes those who occasionally serve with the armed forces. Justice Aajzaz Hassan countered that this pertained solely to service matters, but the Attorney General maintained that the Constitution recognized that individuals preventing members of the Armed Forces from performing their duties might also be civilians.

Justice Aaishhu Malk reminded that the Constitution and the law bound the armed forces to perform their duties while safeguarding fundamental rights, making it clear that the law applied to those who disrupted the armed forces.

The Attorney General cited the definition of “relation to the armed forces” and promised to provide additional arguments, explaining the necessity of military courts in the Liaquat Hussain case.

As the proceedings concluded, the court allowed written arguments from the Attorney General and also noted the involvement of Shah Khawar as the lawyer representing several ministers.

The court, while rejecting nine separate applications on the grounds of withdrawal, reserved its decision concerning the trial of civilians in military courts.

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