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Friday June 21, 2024

Military courts: SC larger bench dissolved after Justice Tariq Masood's recusal

Petitioner Jawad S Khawaja's lawyer raises objection to bench; matter referred to judges' committee

By Maryam Nawaz
January 29, 2024
Supreme Court Justice Sardar Tariq Masood. — Supreme Court website
Supreme Court Justice Sardar Tariq Masood. — Supreme Court website

ISLAMABAD: A six-member bench of the Supreme Court hearing intra-court appeals against civilians’ trial in military court was dissolved on Monday following Justice Sardar Tariq Masood's recusal.

In December of last year, the larger bench of the apex conditionally suspended its judgment on military courts by a majority of 5-1 with Justice Musarrat Hilali dissenting.

Other members of the bench included Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hassan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan.

During the hearing of the intra-court appeal today before the same bench, petitioner former chief justice Jawad S Khawaja's lawyer Khawaja Ahmad Hasan raised an objection to the bench.

The counsel demanded reconstitution of bench and requested to refer the matter to the judges’ committee mandated with the fixation of cases before SC benches under the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023.

Justice Masood barred Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) counsel Hamid Khan from presenting arguments.

“If we don't have to hear the case then don't give arguments,” Justice Masood told the counsel.

He said an objection was raised seeking his recusal from the bench.

The bench was dissolved following Justice Masood’s recusal and the matter was referred to the judges committee for reconstitution of the bench.

The Supreme Court said its decision to annul the civilians trial in military courts will remain suspended and the new bench will hear the intra-court appeals.

Lawyers Salman Akram Raja, Aitzaz Hasan and Latif Khosa also implored the SC to fix the hearing of the appeal after general election scheduled to take place on February 8.

On October 23 last year, the Supreme Court declared the trial of civilians in military courts as unconstitutional and held that 103 persons and others, who may be placed concerning the events arising from May 9-10 could be tried by criminal courts, established under the ordinary or special law of the land.

May 9-10 events refer to the violent protests that broke out in different parts of the country following PTI founder Imran Khan's arrest in a corruption case last year with alleged PTI supporters attacked and ransacked government and military installations, prompting the authorities to try the rioters in military courts.

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

Subsequently, the Supreme Court's larger bench conditionally suspended its judgment on the defence ministry and caretaker government's plea on December 13, 2023.