Will SC form a new bench in military trial case?

Apex court is likely to resume hearing govt’s appeal against SC’s October 3 order soon

Supreme Court" PHOTO


Now that the Supreme Court is likely to take up an intra-court appeal against its earlier order annulling trial of May 9 rioters in military courts, many wonder if the apex court will form a larger bench to hear the appeal and whether the three newly inducted judges be a part of it.

A five-member larger bench led by justice Ijazul Ahsan on October 3, 2023 unanimously declared that military courts could not hold trial of people accused of committing acts of vandalism after the May 9, 2023 arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan.

The caretaker federal government had moved an appeal against the order in the court and a six-member larger bench led by justice Sardar Tariq Masood on December 13, 2023 suspended the October 23 order through a majority vote.

The petitioners had later raised an objection to Justice Masood, who later recused himself from hearing the appeal, leading to dissolution of the bench. A three-member SC committee later formed another six-member bench led by Justice Aminuddin Khan.

At the last hearing of the case on April 24, some of the key petitioners had requested the court to form a seven- or nine-member bench to hear this crucial matter and the bench had referred the matter once again to the three-member SC committee.

The existing bench comprises Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed, Justice Mussarat Hilali and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan.

Many legal experts wonder as to what would be the composition of a larger bench if the SC committee decides to form one.

Recently, on June 7, the Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) approved nomination of three high court judges—Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Malik Shahzad Ahmad Khan, LHC’s Justice Shahid Bilal and Sindh High Court Chief Justice Aqeel Abbasi—to the Supreme Court, effectively filling all the vacant posts in the top court.

It must be noted that Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa has already given a verdict against trial of civilians in military courts while hearing petitions filed against the military courts formed after the December 16, 2024 attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School.

SC’s senior puisne judge Syed Mansoor Ali Shah on the other hand had recused himself from hearing the petitions filed against the military courts after the federal government raised objections to him due to his relation to one of the petitioners—former CJP Jawwad S Khawaja.

The three-member SC committee may, however, also decide to keep the existing six-member bench.


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