Plea for right of judicial review in military court cases rejected

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court rejected on Friday an appeal seeking the right of judicial review for all convicts sentenced by military courts.

The appeal was moved by Advocate Inamul Raheim, who pleads for the rights of military court convicts, against the Oct 28, 2015, decision of SC registrar to return his petition for the judicial review of sentences awarded by the military court.

The court office stated that the issue raised in the petition had already been attended to by the Supreme Court in its May 8, 2015, judgment while deciding petitions against the 18th and 21st amendments.

While dismissing the petitions challenging the 21st Amendment, under which military courts had been set up, a 17-judge full court had in a majority judgment reaffirmed that any order passed, decision taken or sentence awarded by the military courts would be subject to judicial review by high courts and the Supreme Court on the grounds of being coram-non-judice, without jurisdiction or suffering from mala fides, including malice in law.

The apex court had also held that the decision to select, refer or transfer the case of an accused for trial under the Pakistan Army Act 1952 as amended would also be subject to judicial review.

In his petition, Advocate Raheim said that currently two groups of convicts were being sentenced to death by the military courts — the first after the passage of the 21st Amendment and the second prior to the amendment.

The petitioner claimed that none of the convicts had been allowed to engage a lawyer to defend themselves and at the end were denied trial proceedings.

Denial of the right of judicial review to the convicts, the petition contended, would amount to extra-judicial killing by the military judicial system because every citizen had the right to be treated justly, fairly and impartially by a forum having judicial mind.

Mr Raheim said he had argued before acting Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar in a chamber hearing on Friday that the convicts were usually executed before their appeals were heard and decided by appellate forums whereas high courts declined to hear appeals of the convicts under Article 199 of the Constitution.

According to him, Justice Saqib Nisar rejected the appeal on the ground that he was not an aggrieved party and the objection raised by the registrar office was correct.

In a two-page order, the registrar office had held that the petitioner had neither sought enforcement of any of the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution nor approached the high court or any other appropriate forum available to him under the law for redressal of his grievance.

The court office also said that it appeared to be a frivolous petition within the contemplation of Order 27 Rule of the Supreme Court Rules 1980.

In his appeal against the registrar office’s order, Advocate Raheim argued that cases of military personnel should be tried by the service tribunal in a similar fashion as available to civilian officers. He regretted that the registrar office’s remarks that his petition prima facie was frivolous were highly objectionable and disgraceful.