ISLAMABAD: Former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Retired Jawwad S Khawaja, has raised objections to the inclusion of Justice Sardar Tariq Masood in the bench set to hear intra-court appeals against the Supreme Court’s (SC) verdict on military trials for civilians on Monday.
The SC is scheduled to commence hearings on December 13 for a series of intra-court appeals challenging the apex court’s October 23 verdict against the trials of civilians in military courts.
Justice Sardar Tariq will lead the six-member bench responsible for hearing petitions submitted by the federal government, defense ministry, and the governments of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and Balochistan, seeking the suspension of the October 23 short order during the pendency of intra-court appeals.
Justice Retired Jawwad S Khawaja filed a constitutional petition in the apex court through his counsel, contesting the inclusion of Justice Masood in the bench hearing intra-court appeals against the SC’s verdict on military trials for civilians.
It is important to note that the former chief justice had previously approached the SC against the trial of civilians in military courts, urging that it be declared unconstitutional.
The petition highlights the circumstances surrounding the reconstitution of the nine-member bench, where two members, Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, refused to participate. Justice Isa presented a prepared note in open court, and after its reading, both justices withdrew from the bench, leading to its reconstitution.
The petition questions the legal nature of a document issued by Justice Masood on June 26, 2023, which was made public and seems to express grievances against the then Chief Justice of Pakistan regarding the constitution of the nine-member bench.
The document is not explicitly an order or decision made in a judicial capacity.
The petition argues that Justice Masood’s findings and views, as expressed in the document, indicate a predisposition that compromises the impartiality of independent adjudication, both substantively and in terms of perception.
Justice Khawaja contends that Justice Masood should recuse himself from hearing the appeal and related cases in the interest of justice.
The former CJP further requests a halt to any orders from the Justice Sardar Tariq Masood-led bench in the relevant petitions and advocates for referring the matter back to the committee formed under the Supreme Court (SC) Practice and Procedure Act 2023 for the reconstitution of the bench handling the intra-court appeals.
The context of the legal dispute stems from the Supreme Court’s October 23 verdict, where a 4-1 decision was reached in response to pleas against civilian trials in military courts. The PTI chairman and others had moved the top court to challenge the military trial of civilians involved in the May 9 riots triggered by the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan in the Al-Qadir Trust case.