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Tuesday April 16, 2024

Caretakers, Defence Ministry challenges SC’s military courts verdict

Five-judge bench was not constituted as per SC Practice and Procedure Act, argues Centre

By Maryam Nawaz
November 17, 2023
A board pointing towards the Supreme Court building. — SC website
A board pointing towards the Supreme Court building. — SC website

ISLAMABAD: The caretaker federal and provincial governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan on Friday moved the Supreme Court seeking annulment of its October 23 judgment, declaring the military trial of civilians arrested in connection with the May 9 riots null and void.

Besides the Centre and provincial governments, the Ministry of Defence also appealed to the top court to revoke its October 23 ruling and restore the sections of the Official Secrets Act that were declared illegal by the five-member bench.

A day earlier, the Sindh caretaker government and Shuhada Forum, Balochistan, separately requested the apex court to set aside its judgment declaring unconstitutional the trials of civilians in military courts.

Last month, the five-member bench of the top court declared civilians' trials in military courts null and void as it admitted the petitions challenging the trial of civilians involved in the May 9 riots triggered by the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan in a corruption case.

The SC's larger bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan and comprising Justices Munib Akhtar, Yayha Afridi, Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Ayesha A. Malik had announced the verdict.

In its plea, the federal government urged the top court to declare its October 23 judgment null and void. The Centre also sought a stay against the verdict of the top court till the decision on its appeal.

Raising objections over the judgment, the federal government argued that the five-member bench was not constituted as per the SC Practice and Procedure Act 2023, hence its ruling was “invalid”.

In similar petitions, the caretaker governments of Balochistan and KP also urged the top court to declare the five-member bench’s judgment on the trials of civilians in military courts as null and void.

In its intra-court appeal, the Ministry of Defence urged the apex court to revoke the October 23 decision and restore the sections of the Official Secrets Act that were declared illegal by the bench. It also urges the Supreme Court to restore Section 59(4) of the Army Act.


The petition has also warned that declaring some sections of the Army Act and Official Secrets Act illegal would harm the country.

The Sindh chief secretary on Thursday (yesterday) filed an appeal under Section 5 of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 read with Article 184(3) of the Constitution against the order passed by the apex court in the petitions, challenging the trial of civilians in military courts.

The caretaker provincial government prayed to the apex court to allow its appeal against the October 23 short order. It further prayed the court to suspend the operation of the short order till the appeal is pending.

On October 23, a five-member larger bench of the apex court declared the trial of civilians in the military courts as unconstitutional.

It also held that 103 persons and others who may be placed in relation to the events arising from May 9 and 10 could be tried by criminal courts established under the ordinary or special law of the land.

PTI and others approached the top court against the military trials on the grounds that they lack transparency.

The decision to use military courts was taken by the government of Shehbaz Sharif, who has since completed his term in August and handed over to a caretaker government that will oversee an election slated for January.

Hundreds of Imran Khan supporters stormed military and government installations, and even torched a general's house, following the former premier's brief arrest by the Punjab Rangers.