Punjab Government Challenges SC Verdict on Civilian Trials in Military Courts

Tue Nov 21 2023
icon-facebook icon-twitter icon-whatsapp

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab caretaker government approached the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, challenging the decision of a five-member apex court bench that declared civilian trials in military courts under the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, as unconstitutional. 

The caretaker governments of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, along with the Federal government, Federal Interior, and Defense Ministry, have already filed petitions urging the top court to nullify its verdict on military trials of civilians.

The five-member bench of the apex court, which includes Justices Ijazul Ahsan, Munib Akhtar, Yahya Afridi, Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, and Ayesha Malik, declared trying civilians in military courts for their alleged role in attacks on army installations during the riots following PTI chairman Imran Khan’s arrest as unconstitutional. 

The bench stated that the cases of suspects involved in the vandalism would proceed before criminal courts. 

Furthermore, the SC deemed Section 2(1)(d) of the Army Act, defining persons subject to the Act, to be in violation of the Constitution and “of no legal effect.” The court also ruled Section 59(4) (civil offenses) of the Act as unconstitutional, although Justice Afridi dissented from striking down these sections.

The Punjab government’s petition comes after the defense ministry filed an intra-court appeal challenging the October 23 verdict. 

Review Plea Against SC Verdict on Civilian Trials in Military Courts

The plea argued that the events of May 9 indicated a “premeditated and intentional attempt to undermine the country’s armed forces and inhibit the country’s internal security.”

 It contended that the challenges raised in the original petitions could have been adjudicated by the high courts in their original constitutional jurisdiction under Article 199 and were not maintainable before the SC in its original jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

The petition further asserted that the SC verdict failed to set aside or decide the fate of orders passed by anti-terrorism courts under Section 549 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It argued that trials under the Army Act did not violate fundamental rights, including those enshrined in Articles 9, 10-A, and 25.

 The petition contended that Sections 2(1)(d) and 59(4) of the Army Act were “constitutionally insulated from a challenge on the touchstone of fundamental rights.” 

The plea urged the court to allow the appeal, set aside the verdict by the five-member bench, and “dismiss the petitions against military court trials.”

icon-facebook icon-twitter icon-whatsapp