ISLAMABAD: Senior Supreme Court (SC) judge Justice Ijazul Ahsan expressed serious reservations on Monday regarding the formation of two benches tasked with hearing intra-court appeals against the judgment deeming the trials of civilians in military courts as unconstitutional.
In a letter addressed to the secretary of the judges’ committee, Justice Ijazul Ahsan highlighted that a meeting of the committee, established under Section 2 of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023, took place on December 7th. During this meeting, it was decided that, given the judgment on the trial of civilians by military courts was rendered by a five-member bench, a seven-member bench would be constituted to hear the appeals.
Justice Ahsan emphasized in the letter, “I categorically and in clear terms stated that, to dispel any impression of pick and choose, all Judges of this Court in the order of seniority be included in the appellate Bench.”
He further noted that Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Qazi Faez Isa had agreed to this point but mentioned that he would inquire with the judges, and if any of them declined to sit on the bench, the next available judge would be included.
However, Justice Ahsan expressed his disappointment in the letter, stating that he waited the entire day on Friday for information regarding the two benches. Despite making three phone calls to the secretary, his office was informed that the file, along with the note, had been sent to the CJP.
Moreover, he mentioned that neither the minutes of the 4th meeting nor those of the 5th meeting were sent to him on Friday or Saturday. Yet, these minutes were uploaded on the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s website without his review or signature.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan asserted his right and duty to ensure that the minutes accurately reflected the meeting’s discussions, the members’ points of view, and whether there was unanimity or a difference of opinion. He criticized the minutes of the 5th meeting, prepared and uploaded by the secretary, for failing to do so.
In the interest of transparency, maintaining the court’s dignity, and adhering to the rule of seniority agreed upon to hear these matters, Justice Ahsan concluded his letter by stating that he expected his note to be immediately uploaded on the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s website.
It is noteworthy that a six-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, led by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, is scheduled to hear the appeals against the earlier verdict declaring the trial of civilians in military courts as unconstitutional.
The bench, according to the SC roster, includes Justices Aminuddin Khan, Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Musarrat Hilali, and Irfan Saadat Khan.
The October 23 verdict by a five-judge bench had ordered the trial of accused in cases related to the May 9 riots under ordinary criminal laws. The intra-court appeals against this decision were filed by the caretaker federal government and interim setups in the provinces of Punjab, Balochistan, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.