The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the trials of civilians who were detained after violent protests in the nation on May 9 that were held in military courts were invalid.
Following proceedings in the case earlier today on a group of petitions challenging the constitutionality of trying civilians in military courts, the Supreme Court reserved its decision and then issued its brief verdict.
The court ruled that the trial of civilians under Section 2 D (i) (ii) of the Army Act is unconstitutional by a vote of 4 to 1. The five-member bench unanimously decided that common criminal statutes would be used to prosecute civilians.
Regarding the legality of Section 2 D(i)(ii), Justice Yahya Afridi withheld judgment.
Without limiting the generality of the aforementioned, “Criminal Courts of Pakistan shall conduct the trials of civilians and accused persons, being approximately 103 persons who were identified in the list provided to the Court by the learned Attorney General for Pakistan by way of CMA No.5327 of 2023 in Constitution Petition No.24 of 2023 and all other persons who are now or may at any time be similarly placed in relation to the events arising from and out of May 9 and 10, 2023.
Following riots and destruction after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s detention on May 9, civilians were detained under the Army Act.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan presided over a five-person bench that heard the case. On the bench were Justices Mazahir Naqvi, Justice Ayesha Malik, Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Muneeb Akhtar.
Ahmed Hussain, Jawad S. Khawaja’s attorney, announced that he would read the ruling from the previous hearing as soon as the hearing got underway. The judge, however, recalled that the attorney general had given his reasons during the last session and urged allowing him to wrap up his case before moving on to other subjects.
Salman Akram Raja, a lawyer, also stated that despite pledges in court, military courts had begun trials of civilians. However, Justice Ahsan ordered him to first hear from the attorney general.
Mansoor Usman Awan, the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP), gave a thorough recap of the prior hearing and outlined the reasons why a constitutional amendment was not required for the current trial.
He continued by saying that he will read the Liaquat Hussain case and draw conclusions from Article 175 in order to do so. The AGP claimed that evidence would be documented and that a comprehensive explanation of the reasoning behind the decision would be presented in the verdict while assuring the bench that the accused in the May 9 case would be tried in military courts with the same rigor as civil courts.
The accused’s status was then questioned by the court. The attorney general made it clear that the defendants were both citizens and members of other groups. They would be tried in accordance with both the Army Act and the rules of civil courts under a dual legal system. He stated that the accused would be charged, guaranteeing the criteria of a criminal case’s due process.
Article 10A of the Constitution would be upheld, according to the AGP. The high court would hear appeals before sending them on to the Supreme Court. Furthermore, military courts may have jurisdiction for assaults on buildings and regions that are off-limits.
The discrepancy between the Army Act’s emphasis on military discipline and its application to civilians was then raised by Justices Ayesha and Mazahar. The attorney general maintained that the legislation applied to everyone, including those who were excluded from duty and those who were only temporarily affiliated with the armed forces.
The dedication of the Constitution to safeguarding fundamental rights was continued by Justice Ayesha. She insisted that rather than restricting the Constitution’s basic liberties, the measure was designed to make sure they wouldn’t be. AGP Awan persisted in defending his viewpoint, however, citing people’s associations with the military.
AGP Awan was further questioned by Justice Ayesha on how he would relate his points to Article 8(3) of the Constitution. She insisted that “a connection to the armed forces is required by law” for cases to be heard in military tribunals.
The nation’s Constitution, according to Justice Ahsan, guaranteed fundamental rights.
The relatives of the detainees approached SC on Sunday in an effort to join the lawsuit. They claimed that because the military courts’ procedures had an impact on the supreme court, the court should be involved in the case.
The federal administration simultaneously told the supreme court that 102 people had been detained in relation to the occurrences on May 9 and 10. They were promising the court that proceedings in military courts would follow the SC case, which is still pending.
“Those found guilty would receive light sentences, while those who had served jail terms would be released,” it stated. Convicted individuals will have the opportunity to appeal their legal sentences to the appropriate venue following the military trial.
The Pakistan Army Act of 1952 and the Official Secrets Act were used to arrest the people who were put into military custody. The people who were detained were involved in the attacks on the camps in Gujranwala, Bannu, and Hamza.
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