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April 17, 2015

SC halts sentences awarded by military courts

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April 17, 2015


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday halted the execution of six persons sentenced on charges of terrorism and manslaughter by the military courts established under the 21st Amendment.
The full court, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, heard the petitions of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) and 11 other bar councils and associations against the 21st Amendment and 18th Amendment.
During the hearing, the court ruled that first they would hear the petitions against the 18th Amendment and later take up the case of the 21st Amendment.The short order said: “The death sentence to those who have been awarded by military courts and those who will be awarded death by military courts stayed.”
The court directed Attorney General (AG) for Pakistan Salman Butt to file a reply on the application.During the course of the hearing, Chief Justice (CJ) Nasirul Mulk enquired whether anyone had filed an application for the suspension of the execution of death sentences. It was observed that those awarded death sentences were especially vulnerable and if execution had taken place, it would be irreversible.
Asma Jahangir, coming on the rostrum, informed that on behalf of the SCBA she had filed the petition against the death sentence.AG Salman Aslam Butt contended that there was a remedy provided in the system and there was a complete procedure given in Section 133-B of the Pakistan Army Act 1952.
“We don’t know much about therefore there is a need to suspend the death sentence”, the CJ remarked adding that the trial was held in secret manner saying, “What if the appeal is dismissed and the convicts are hanged.”
The attorney general however, contended that there was no secret trial. But the CJ observed that the trial was not publicised and when the death sentence was awarded the news appeared in the media.
Asma Jahangir said even the convicts’ families did not

know about the trial and the sentences and they came to know through newspapers. “I can file the affidavits of the families of the convicts”, said Asma Jehangir.
The AG said that halting the execution amounted to ultimate suspending the valid constitutional amendment. Justice Jawwad S Khwaja however, asked as to why it was necessary to execute the death sentences.
Justice Asif Saeed Khan Khosa inquired from the AGP about the appellate forum against the death sentence, awarded by military courts, within the Army Act.“In Liaquat Hussain case, two persons were hanged as the proceeding had been going on.” It was a big loss to the family. He said the (six convicts) lives should be saved till the final decision.
The AG said that as an interim relief by staying the execution, the constitutional amendment was suspended. “Then we shall give you notice and meanwhile suspend the death sentence”, the CJ told AG.
Noor Saeed, Haider Ali, Murad Khan, Inayatullah, Israruddin and Qari Zahir were awarded death sentences by the military courts.
The SCBA, which had filed its appeal through its former president Asma Jehangir, pleaded to the apex court to pass an interim order staying the execution of the persons till the final disposal of the constitution petition.It was also argued in the petition that, as the guardian of the Constitution, the apex court had to ensure the fundamental rights.
The SCBA had already challenged the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act 2015 and sought the interpretation of 21st Amendment to the Constitution, saying its operation and outcome contradicted the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Meanwhile, the full court heard petitions against 18th Amendment. The court was informed that Akram Sheikh, counsel for SCBA, was on general adjournment. Ikram Chaudhry, representing Justice Party sought time, saying that a young man was murdered in the family on Wednesday therefore he could not prepare the case. He informed that he would still be pressing his petition.
Justice Jawwad said that the basic question was the same in all the petitions and the judgment on 18th Amendment would be a precedent therefore all the parties should give importance to this case.
Barrister Zafarullah Khan, appearing on behalf of Wattan Party, said that 104 amendments were made in 60 articles of Constitution through 18th Amendment and nine months were spent to prepare it and millions of rupees were spent. He said that on 30-09-2010 an interim order was passed on 18th Amendment and now after five years the apex court had again taken up this case.
He said the Supreme Court passed judgment on Article 175A and through 19th Amendment strengthened its position as there were now six judges, including Chief Justice of Pakistan. At this Justice Nasir, Justice Khawaja and Justice Saqib inquired whether he was challenging the 19th Amendment or the Supreme Court order of 26th January 2011. Barrister Zafarullah failed to respond the court query.
As the full court was hearing the arguments of Zafarullah, one of the SC staff informed the CJ that Justice Ijaz Chaudhry’s wife had suffered heart attack. The chief justice therefore adjourned the hearing till April 22.




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