ISLAMABAD: The three-judge bench of the apex court said on Thursday the larger bench would be constituted in the last week of March to hear all missing persons’ cases.
The Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja while hearing Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) plea regarding the issue of unidentified dead bodies, observed that the chief justice passed the order that larger bench will be constituted in the last week of this month to decide legal questions pertaining to the trial of serving military officers over their alleged role in enforced disappearances.
The bench has also referred all the missing persons’ matters to the larger bench.
On May 15, 2013 the same bench had recommended that a larger bench should hear all the missing persons’ cases wherein military officers were allegedly involved.
The bench had made this recommendation to ensure uniform consideration over the questions related to the trial. The court had framed questions pertaining to the trial of the officers in missing persons’ cases.
The questions put forth are: First, when a person is accused of commission of an offence under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and that person is serving in the Pakistan Army, is it the ordinary criminal (forums) courts, set up under the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which are to try him, or is it for the forums under the Pakistan Army Act to try such an accused?
Second, is it the ordinary criminal courts (in the present case, the courts in Malakand) that are obliged to accede to the request made by the army authorities, or is it within the discretion of the ordinary courts to determine whether or not to allow the request of army authorities to transfer the case to them?
Third, if it is for the ordinary forums to exercise discretion in the matter of a request received from the army authorities, what is the basis on which such a request should be considered, and then allowed or declined?
Last year, the court had issued notices to Attorney General of Pakistan and all advocates general in this case but the matter has not been listed for the last many months. Earlier, missing persons’ cases were being heard by different benches.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2015.