Bench hearing pleas against military trials dissolved again

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) bench hearing the petitions challenging the trial of civilians in military courts was dissolved once again after the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP) objected to Justice Mansoor Ali Shah’s inclusion in the bench.

At the onset of the hearing, the AGP told the court that he has been instructed by the government that Justice Shah should not be a part of the bench. Irked at the statement, CJ Bandial stated, “The bench will not be made by your will”.

“On what basis is the federal government raising objection on Justice Shah?” questioned CJ Bandial.

To this, the AGP replied that the objection has been raised due to a “conflict of interest”.

The CJ then remarked that there are no doubts about the competence of the judge against whom the objection is being raised, noting that the government earlier has also raised such objections.

“Does the government want to make the bench controversial again?” remarked the CJ.

During the hearing, CJ Bandial also noted that the top court had refrained from taking strict action against the rulers for not implementing the order of holding elections within 90 days following the dissolution of Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) assemblies.

He added that he has never been part of a bench where there is suspicion of partiality on him. He further told the AGP that the SC is taunted for having ‘like-minded’ judges, adding that “our government always talks about the formation of benches and at times it is objected”.

“You are an able lawyer. Hold good character and values,” he told the AGP. He further asked the AGP “what do you want to do? We have always shown restraint”.

The apex court top judge added that it is time for everyone to take a step back and that following the decisions of the court is a moral responsibility.

“We have no stick to ensure the implementation of decisions. Many people have a stick but what moral justification do they have,” he added.

 

“Shall we ask the prime minister why an objection has been raised on the basis of a family relationship?” remarked the CJ.

Justice Bandial noted that Justice Shah is a sensible person and “not the kind of person whose decision would be influenced because of his relationship”.

“Do not tarnish and ridicule the Supreme Court,” remarked the chief justice.

However, following the objection, Justice Shah recused himself from the bench. “I can no longer be a part of this bench,” he said.

Petitioner Aitzaz Ahsan’s counsel Latif Khosa then made his remarks and said that today is a dark day in the judicial history of the country.

“This is a case of fundamental rights, there is no objection on the bench,” stated the lawyer for the petitioner Salman Akram Raja.

The CJ then said that the court will decide the next course of action after mutual consultation.

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