SC seeks evidence details of 73 military court convicts
The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Monday sought evidence details of 73 individuals who were convicted by military courts.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Amin-ud-Din Khan, resumed hearing of the defence ministry’s plea against an earlier Peshawar High Court (PHC) decision of acquitting the convicts.
A two-member bench headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed had suspended the PHC verdict against military court convictions while hearing the same plea in November 2018.
Additional Attorney General Sajid Illyas Bhatti said the military courts have a standard trial procedure that also allows the convicts to challenge the decision. He emphasised that the military court verdicts were in line with the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). When Justice Alam inquired about the crimes committed by the convicts, the additional attorney general replied that all 73 of them were sentenced in different cases.
Bhatti lamented that the PHC sidelined the constitution and reality when acquitting the 73 military court convicts. He added the military courts had also acquitted convicts. “At least five suspects were let go due to lack of evidence.”
Justice Akhtar noted that a first information report (FIR) and a confession was not enough evidence. He said a confession made before an army personnel holds no value since the statement can only be recorded before a magistrate.
The additional attorney general said confessions led to verdicts during the trial and statements were recorded from officers at the detention centres.
Justice Akhtar remarked that on prima facie, there was no evidence other than a confession. Bhatti said the investigation officers attained information from the convicts.
Meanwhile, a counsel representing one of the convicts lamented that his client was provided unsatisfactory legal assistance. He claimed the suspects remain unaware of the counsel fighting their case. He was arrested from Islamabad in 2012 and presented after five years with a confession. A petition was filed over his abduction in the top court.”
The additional attorney general requested the top court to consider it as special circumstance since witnesses were reluctant to record statements against terrorists.
He added the Parliament had constituted military courts keeping this reality in view and said Article 10(a) did not apply to military courts. Article 10(a) Right to fair trial: For the determination of his civil rights and obligations or in any criminal charge against him a person shall be entitled to a fair trial and due process.
The counsel for one of the convicts requested the apex court to review if the Pakistan Army Act 1952 was superior to the Constitution. The additional attorney general informed the top court that the PHC decision was due tomorrow on 200 appeals against the military court convictions and pleased to the bench to prevent the high court. However, Justice Akhtar remarked that the high court could not be stopped from announcing a decision. The apex court sought details of the evidence against the 73 convicts and those acquitted by the military court as well, and adjourned the hearing till today (Tuesday).