Army judges get to call curtain on trials

with-out-headline
  • Army Act Amendment Ordinance issued, judges to have discretion on open proceedings
  • SC proposes formation of larger bench for hearing cases against 18th and 21st amendments

While the military court judges have been given discretionary powers over privacy of case proceedings, the Supreme Court (SC) has invoked the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) for constituting a larger bench to hear petitions filed against establishment of military courts and the 21st Constitutional Amendment.

President Mamnoon Hussain has issued ordinance of amendment in Pakistan Army Act, according to which the judges of military courts would have the discretion to decide whether the proceedings will be open or not.

The amendment ordinance’s summary, including prime minister’s recommendation, was sent by the Ministry of Defence.

Following the amendment, the judges, lawyers and witnesses will be given security and protection. The judge of the court will himself have the discretion to decide whether the proceeding of a particular case will be open or closed.

Sources said that the amendment can be applicable on existing cases, however, the military court’s judges will decide by themselves about proceeding of the case.

AMENDMENTS IN THE DOCK:

Meanwhile, the SC on Tuesday referred the case of 21st Constitution Amendment to the CJP, requesting him to constitute a larger bench to decide the fate of the 21st Amendment.

A three-member SC bench headed by Justice Anwer Zaheer Jamali, comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Mushir Alam, was hearing a set of petitions including Lahore High Court Bar petition filed against establishment of military courts and 18th and 21st constitutional amendments.

Hamid Khan, Irfan Qadir, attorney general (AG) and counsels of other petitioners appeared in the court.

Indefinitely adjourning the case hearing, the bench observed that the case regarding the 18th Amendment will be heard first followed by the 21st Constitutional. Although the dates regarding the two will be set together, they will be heard separately, the court observed, also directing the Islamabad AG to submit a written reply within three days.

Considering that the case was being heard in Islamabad, the Sindh AG invoked Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali’s wrath by telling him that the provincial government has submitted its response at the apex court’s Karachi registry.

Advocate generals (AGs) of Punjab and Balochistan told the court that responses have already been filed.

During the hearing, Advocate Hamid Khan informed the court that the federal and Khyber Pakhutnkhwa governments have only submitted their responses so far.

While rejecting Khan’s plea seeking fixation of the case for early hearing, the court remarked, “Constitution of bench is discretionary power of the CJP. We cannot ask him to fix the case for early hearing by constituting the bench soon.”

Justice Jamali remarked, “The matter of 18th Amendment is already pending hearing with the court. The questions of identical nature have been raised in the cases of 18th and 21st amendments. A legal and constitutional reply to these questions is required. The decision in the two matters will be rendered after their detailed hearing. However, this three-member bench is not issuing instruction of any kind and we are referring the matter to CJP for constitution of larger bench upon it.”

Ordering the filing of a reply from Islamabad within three days, the court observed that others had filed their replies.



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