The provincial high courts have declined the governments’ request to nominate judicial officers for the newly established military courts. They have, in turn, asked the government to direct their request to the relevant district and sessions’ judges.
Sources in the judiciary told The Express Tribune that the Sindh home department had addressed a letter to the chief justice of the Sindh High Court (SHC) to nominate judicial magistrates for the newly set-up military courts in different cities. Two military courts have been set-up for Karachi at the Malir Cantonment, while one each have been set up for Hyderabad and Sukkur.
The home department made a reference to a letter received from the Pakistan Army’s 5-Core Karachi Office, dated February 15, wherein it was stated that military courts have been established in light of the recent constitutional amendments for trial of accused persons, who were involved in heinous offences. It was further said that prior to the commencement of the trial, some of the accused wanted to voluntarily record their confessional statements under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The home department was asked to ensure nomination of judicial magistrates to record the statements of the accused.
The sources explained that the home department wrote to the SHC chief justice, requesting him to nominate judicial magistrates for the military courts for the purpose of recording testimonies of the accused persons. The SHC has, however, returned the home departments’ request to directly appoint the judicial magistrates.
The source added that the high court reasoned it had already issued directions to all the district and session judges in the province for assignment of the business to the judicial magistrates under the special laws vide a letter dated January 25, 2001. “The home department has been asked to approach the relevant district and sessions judges to nominate the judicial magistrates to record confessional statements of the accused persons under Section 164 of the CrPC,” explained the officer.
Response in other provinces
The sources claimed that a similar response was given by the high courts of Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which had also declined the provincial governments’ requests to directly nominate judicial officers for the proposed military courts.
“All the high courts raised similar objections to the requests, asking the home departments to approach the relevant district and sessions judges to name their subordinate judicial magistrates for the military courts to record the confessional statements of the accused persons,” said the official.
Establishment of military courts
The proposal for the establishment of military courts to speedily try alleged terrorists and criminals in the wake of the attack on the Army Public School where Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan gunmen killed over 150 people, including schoolchildren and teachers on December 16, 2014, in Peshawar. The formation of the courts was given the go-ahead by virtue of the 21st Amendment to the Constitution which was passed and signed by President Mamnoon Hussain on January 7, 2015.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2015.