Justice Ijazul Ahsan raises objection to formation of SC benches

Justice Ijazul Ahsan, SC benches, military court trials

ISLAMABAD: Senior Supreme Court (SC) judge, Justice Ijazul Ahsan on Monday expressed ‘serious concern’ over the formation of two benches hearing the intra-court appeals against the judgement declaring the trials of civilians in military courts ‘unconstitutional’, ARY News reported.

In a letter to the secretary of the judges committee, Justice Ijazul Ahsan noted that a meeting of Committee constituted under Section 2 of the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023 was held on December 7th.

He said that it was agreed that since the judgement in the matter of the trial of civilians by military courts had been rendered by a five-member bench of the court, a seven-member bench would be constituted to hear the appeals.

“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,” the judge wrote.

Justice Ahsan further said that Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Qazi Faez Isa had agreed to his point, but said that he would ask the judges and if any of them did not want to sit on the bench, the next available judge will be included.

“I waited all day on Friday for any information regarding the two Benches. At least three phone calls were made to you [secretary], but my office was informed that the file with your note had been sent to the [CJP],” he said in the letter.

Read More: Interior Ministry challenges SC verdict on military trials of civilians

“Neither the minutes of the 4th meeting nor those of the 5th meeting were sent to me on Friday or Saturday. Neither of the minutes have been seen or signed by me, yet these have been uploaded on the website of the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” he added.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan also said that it was his right and duty to ensure that the minutes reflect accurately what was discussed in the meeting, what were the points of view of the members of the committee and if there was any unanimity or a difference of opinion.

“The minutes of the 5th Meeting prepared and uploaded by you [secretary] most certainly fail to do so,” the judge wrote in his letter.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that he has the greatest respect for every judge of the court, but as a matter of principle and in the interest of transparency and to maintain the dignity and honour of the court, the “rule of seniority was agreed to be followed to hear these matters”.

“I have therefore written this note to set the record straight. Because you have upload the minutes of the meeting without even showing them to me, let alone getting my signatures, I expect that this note will also be uploaded on the website of the Supreme Court of Pakistan immediately,” he concluded.

Read More: SC orders military trials of civilians ‘unconstitutional’

It is pertinent to mention here that a six-member larger bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood will hear the appeals against its earlier verdict –declaring the trial of civilians in military courts as unconstitutional.

According to the SC roster, the bench will also include Justices Aminuddin Khan, Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Musarrat Hilali and Irfan Saadat Khan.

On Oct 23, a five-judge bench comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Mazahir Naqvi, and Justice Ayesha Malik ordered that accused in cases relating to May 9 riots should be tried under ordinary criminal laws.

The petitions, questioning the legitimacy of trying civilians in military courts, were filed by former chief justice Jawwad S Khawaja, senior lawyer Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and others.

The intra-court appeals against that verdict had been filed by the caretaker federal government and the interim set-ups in the provinces of Punjab, Balochistan, and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.