Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial said on Monday that he hoped that no civilians would be tried in military courts while the matter was being heard in the Supreme Court.
“I expect that no military trial [of civilians] will be conducted while proceedings are ongoing,” Justice Bandial gave remarks as a six-member SC bench, comprising himself, Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Justice Ayesha Malik, heard pleas challenging the military trial of civilians.
He added that all the 102 people currently in the military’s custody should be allowed to meet their families.
A six-member bench was formed earlier on Mondy after the government had raised objections regarding Justice Mansoor Ali Shah. The PDM-run government cited the fact that one of the petitioners, Jawwad S Khawaja, was related to him.
Justice Shah had recused himself from hearing the case, although he pointed out that this fact was highlighted at the very first hearing.
This was the second time the bench stood dissolved.
Earlier, a seven-member bench of the Supreme Court hearing the military courts case was reconstituted to six members on Monday, after the government objected to the inclusion of Justice Mansoor Ali Shah.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial reconstituted the bench hearing the case with six members which resumed the hearing just after 11 am.
The bench now includes Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Muneed Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Mazahar Naqvi and Justice Ayesha Malik.
Originally, a nine-bench bench had been formed to hear the case. But Justice Qazi Faez Isa distances himself from the bench, citing that he did not consider the SC bench “a proper court”, with Justice Sardar Tariq Masood also endorsed his point of view.
Hamid Khan told the court that one of his petitions had not been assigned a number.
However, the chief justice told him that he would be heard later.
“We are recovering from a set back,” he said.
Lawyer Salman Akram Raja then told the court that civilians were of two types, those who provide services to the armed forces and those who have no link with the army whatsoever.
He added that those completely unlinked with the army could only be tried by courts formed under Article 175 of the constitution۔ Raja also made multiple references to the American use of military courts.
However, the chief justice asked how American law treated citizens who decided to stand against the state.
Raja replied that military courts in the US only sprung into action if normal courts were unable to do their duty.
Objections to Justice Mansoor Ali Shah
When the hearing began on Monday, Attorney General Mansoor Awan said that the government had instructed him that Justice Shah should not be on the bench.
The AG said that Justice Shah had himself asked if there was any objection against him being part of the bench and he had replied in the negative. However, the government now had raised an objection.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial told the AG in reply that benches could not be made as per his wishes.
“On what basis are you raising objections on Justice Shah?” he asked.
The attorney general replied that Justice Shah had a conflict of interest.
At this Justice Shah once again said that he was related to former Chief Justice Jawad S Khawaja, who is one of the petitioners in the case. He had mentioned this fact in an earlier hearing of the case as well.
Justice Bandial said that Justice (r) Khawaja was a dervish and could not possibly extract any benefits from Justice Shah.
However, Justice Shah said he would leave the bench, which led to its dissolution.
‘Do not defame us’
As the exchange over the government’s objection to Justice Shah took place, Justice Bandial reflected on the government’s general attitude.
“Do not defame us,” he said.
“Should we call the prime minister and ask why the government has objected to one judge?”
Justice Bandial also said that the court had ‘refrained’ from taking strict action against the government over its failure to implement the decision in the election delay case. He questioned that if the court was not using the ‘stick’ so what capacity was ‘other people’ using it?
“We have tolerated a lot of things from the government,” he added.
He also said that there had been an entire series where objections had been raised against judges. He also added that a 4 vs 3 judge conspiracy had been created.
Latf Khosa criticises ‘delay tactics’
Advocate Latif Khosa, who is representing Aitzaz Ahsan in the case, told the media that raising objections to the judge in the third hearing was nothing but delaying tactics.
He also said that it was ‘shameful’ that such tactics were being employed by the government in a case of national importance.