- SC questions need for amendment in Army Act in the presence of Article 245, says govt could have invoked Article 6 of PPC to invoke treason charges against terror suspects
- Justice Khawaja says president’s accord prior to Parliament’s akin to signing decision after accused is hanged
Hearing petitions against the 18th and 21st constitutional amendments on Tuesday, a 17-member full court bench of the Supreme Court (SC), headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Nasirul Mulk, observed that the federal government could invoke treason charges under Article 6 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) relating to terrorism against the State instead of trying terror suspects in military courts.
During the hearing, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa remarked that “bringing certain matters under the military courts as administrative arrangements during a democratic era is also dictatorship”.
“How can we allow it? There was no need of the 21st Amendment after the military leadership had directed the federal government to make amendment for formation of military courts. What was the need to make amendment in Army Act in the presence of Article 245? It is said in the preface of 21st Amendment that this amendment is aimed at providing constitutional protection to military courts.”
Moreover, Justice Dost Muhammad Khan remarked, “The successful operation conducted in Swat was conducted under Article 245 and not under military courts. If the situation can improve in Swat, why not elsewhere? What is the need left for formation of military courts?”
Furthermore, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja remarked, “If the government can call in Army under Article 245 for fear of revolt, it could be done so now too. There was no need for formation of military courts. Signing by the president prior to approval of Parliament is as if any accused is hanged without trial.”
Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Nasirul Mulk said that dictatorships have reigned over the country despite their way was blocked in the Constitution of 1973.
Earlier, Attorney General (AG) Salman Butt told SC that all the details of trial by military courts have been obtained and will be provided in the form of a video.
Butt said that military courts have been set up in order to speed up the trials of those accused of terrorism as in the previous year, 85 per cent of terrorism cases were left pending by civil courts. He contended that militants have spilled over to other areas thus demanding swifter action from the government.
“If 500 terrorists attack from behind Margalla hills, will the Army see towards the decision of high court and Supreme Court?”
The AG said amendment was made for formation of military courts keeping in view the situation of the country. “India also made temporary amendment in Article 59 of its Constitution. Amendment in Army Act and 21st Amendment were passed in National Assembly simultaneously. In Senate, the amendment in Army Act was approved first and 21st Amendment was passed later,” he said.
The AG said all the things had become clear in Liaquat Hussain case. “I will come to the fact on Wednesday and will provide the details about trial in military courts. These all will be in the form of a video,” he said.
The hearing was adjourned till today (Wednesday).
Military courts were agreed upon by the political leadership under the National Action Plan (NAP) against terrorism adopted in December after the Peshawar school tragedy in which 150 students and staff lost their lives.
The Parliament later amended the Constitution and the Army Act to pave the way for the establishment of military courts for a period of two years. The Army has set up nine courts — three each in KP and Punjab, two in Sindh and one in Balochistan.