Home Latest News Supreme Court Seeks Details of Military Trials of May 9 Rioters

Supreme Court Seeks Details of Military Trials of May 9 Rioters

Case adjourned until March 28, when hearing will resume

by Staff Report

File photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

A six-member bench of the Supreme Court on Monday sought details of the military trials of civilians for their alleged involvement in the May 9 riots, adjourning proceedings until March 28.

Led by Justice Aminuddin Khan, the bench comprises Justices Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Syed Azhar Hasan Rizvi, Shahid Waheed, Musarrat Hilali and Irfan Saadat Khan. It is hearing a set of intra-court appeals against a unanimous ruling declaring the military trials of civilians unconstitutional and directing their trials to be conducted in criminal courts.

Subsequently, the apex court had suspended the earlier ruling, allowing for military trials to continue, but barring the announcement of any final verdict until the intra-court appeals—filed by the then-interim governments at the center and in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab—were decided. After the petitioners who had challenged military trials sought the recusal of Justice (retd.) Sardar Tariq Masood, he referred the appeals back to a three-judge committee for the constitution of a larger bench.

During today’s hearing, the counsel for petitioner Jawwad S. Khawaja, a former chief justice of Pakistan, objected to the size of the bench, seeking the formation of a nine-member larger bench. He also sought permission for the families of the suspects in custody to attend proceedings, with Justice Khan noting the courtroom was “full” but the bench would look into the matter.

In his arguments, the counsel claimed that as a five-member bench had nullified the military trials of civilians, a 4-2 verdict of a six-member bench striking down the ruling would make the verdict “controversial.”

The court then sought details from Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan, by March 28, on the number of suspects facing acquittals by military courts, as well as those who had already served their sentences. “The stay order on the military courts’ case will be amended according to the summary,” observed the bench.

To the court’s questioning the AGP on how many suspects had been or could be released, he said verdicts remained pending due to the stay order. He said some of the suspects would have their sentences shortened, as the period of their arrest would be considered a part of their sentence.

“Acquit the suspects that can be; the legal battle of the rest would continue. The main objective is to free those that can be,” remarked Justice Khan. Justice Waheed, meanwhile, questioned why the provincial governments had filed appeals when this was a case for the federal government.

At one point, the KP government urged the court to allow it to withdraw its appeal against the original verdict, as the provincial cabinet had passed a resolution to this effect. The court noted a plea could not be withdrawn based on a cabinet resolution and told the provincial advocate general to file an official application.

The petitioners also objected to a private counsel pleading the matter for the government.

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