The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) has decided to challenge before the apex court the proposed creation of military courts that will try terror suspects.
The independent SCBA will thus become the second bar association after the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) to appeal against the move.
The government’s initiative to set up special courts was taken in the aftermath of the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar last month.
SCBA President Fazle Haq Abbasi told The Express Tribune on Saturday that the association will request the court to strike down the 21st Amendment which is against the very basic structure of the Constitution. There is no guarantee of fair trial in this new legislation, he said.
Earlier on Wednesday, a Supreme Court bench headed by top judge of the country had sought a concise statement from the federal and provincial governments within 15 days while hearing the LHCBA plea against the establishment of military courts.
The apex body of the legal fraternity, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), had already announced to become party in this case against the new legislation.
Abbasi explained that the 21st Amendment is diametrically opposed to several articles and provisions of the Constitution including Article 10-A which guarantees fair trial. “The establishment of a military court means there is no fair trial,” Abbasi said, while sharing his own experience of criminal justice system.
It is wrong that judges are not ready to hear cases of terrorists, he said. “The civilian courts gave death sentences to over 8,000 terrorists. Why the government is shy of executing them,” he asked. “There is a need to improve the capacity of police and investigation agencies,” he added. “I served as a judge of Peshawar High Court and heard many cases including those people who have been dubbed as jet black terrorists,” Abbasi said.
He said that SCBA during its meeting on Saturday observed that authorities can speed up the trial of terror suspects by amending the evidence mechanism and enhancing the capacity of police and intelligence agencies. There is a need to make strong the existing Anti-Terrorism Courts (ATCs) coupled with effective prosecution.
Hamid Khan, counsel for LHCBA in the case against military courts, while referring to Article 175 of the Constitution, contended before the bench on Wednesday that the new constitutional amendment has undermined the independence of the judiciary as well as separation of the judiciary from the executive.
He also stated that Article 2A and 8 of the Constitution have also been affected through this amendment, which secured the independence of the judiciary as well as the fundamental rights of the citizens. “It will be the first time in 39 years that some laws have been amended to affect the first schedule of the Constitution,” Khan had stated before the Supreme Court bench.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st, 2015.