Govt Set To Challenge Supreme Court's Order Against Military Courts

The attorney general will represent the federal government, while ministries, and provincial governments hire private lawyers

Govt Set To Challenge Supreme Court's Order Against Military Courts

In a major development, multiple government departments have separately engaged private lawyers to challenge a verdict issued by a larger bench of the Supreme Court on military courts in October.

The Attorney General of Pakistan Mansoor Awan will be representing the federal government. 

The Federal Defence Ministry has engaged senior lawyer Khawaja Haris, while the Federal Interior Ministry has hired Ahmer Bilal Sufi, an expert on international litigation. 

Meanwhile, the Balochistan and Sindh governments have hired Sikandar Bashir Mohmand and Jahanzaib Awan, respectively.

The appeal against the top court's verdict against the military courts is expected to be filed soon. 

Last month, a larger bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan had unanimously declared the trials of civilians in military courts as null and void. 

The bench had ordered that the 103 civilians accused in cases of violence on May 9 and May 10 should be tried in relevant criminal courts under ordinary laws. 

However, the larger bench, by a majority of 4 to 1, also declared Section 2D(i) and 2D(ii), Section 59(4) of the Pakistan Army Act as ultra vires of the Constitution and of no legal effect. 

The other bench members were Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Mazahir Ali Akbar Naqvi, and Justice Ayesha Malik. 

Justice Yahya Afridi had reserved his judgement to the extent of sections of the Pakistan Army Act 1952. 

Chairman PTI Imran Khan was one of the petitioners who challenged the trials of civilians in military courts. 

Senior lawyer Khawaja Haris has previously represented former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in several cases, including the Toshakhana and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) amendment cases. Now, he will argue on military courts to try civilians who were allegedly involved in attacks on military installations, most of whom belong to the PTI, on behalf of the defence ministry and the military. 

Similarly, Ahmer Bilal Sufi is likely to assist the court with international repercussions of the specific sections of the Pakistan Army Act 1952, which the court had declared unconstitutional. 

Under the Practice and Procedure Act 2023, the remedy of appeal is available in cases decided under Article 184(3) of the Constitution, with the Supreme Court exercising original jurisdiction to enforce fundamental rights.

According to Section 5(1) of the Practice and Procedure Act, intra-court appeals must be filed within 30 days of the order and fixed for hearing within 14 days of the application being filed.

However, it will be interesting to see the composition of the bench that hears the government's appeal against the judgment on military courts. 

As per the act and in the case of military courts, a bench of not less than seven members shall be constituted to hear the appeals against the verdict of military courts.

The bench shall not include judges who have already exercised their judgment in the matter. 

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain