Wednesday, June 3, 2015

More hearing days ahead in Pakistan Supreme Court landmark case on military courts

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has continued to hear from counsel in the case involving the validity of the 18th and 21st Amendments to the Constitution. This PT article gives a sense of the latest proceedings, as the justices, or at least some of them, grasp the nettle: when, if ever, can they find a constitutional amendment unconstitutional? As Global Military Justice Reform has pointed out, there is a considerable literature on this subject, but without seeing the briefs and having a full transcript, it is impossible to tell whether counsel or the justices are considering the issues through the prism of that literature. Excerpt from PT coverage:
During the hearing, Hamid Khan argued that both 18th and 21st amendments had affected the basic structure of the Constitution.
“Two amendments have been made. The amendment has been made in the Army Act and it has also been ensured that no court can proceed against them. National Action Plan was evolved after attack on Army Public School in Peshawar. Point No 2 of this plan is relevant which relates to establishment of military courts,” he said, adding, “Setting up military courts is not a new thing in the country. However, the SC has already declared them illegal and unconstitutional. This article is alien to articles 2-A, 8, 25, 19, 175, 10-A and others.” 
“Article 2-A which provides guarantee for independence of Judiciary, has been affected directly. Clause 1 and 11 of Article 8 have been rendered ineffective fully. Attempt has been made to restrict the powers of superior judiciary,” he contended.
The hearing resumes on Thursday and then again on June 16.

Postscript: The Express Tribune report, here, has additional details, and includes this:
During the hearing, Hamid Khan, appearing on behalf of LHCBA [the Lahore High Court Bar Association], contended that over a dozen Articles of the 1973 Constitution are directly affected by the 21st amendment. 
The counsel said the 21st amendment would also, in some way, affect other provisions of the Constitution and curtail the power of the Supreme Court. 
He said the 21st amendment disturbs, undermines, and perverts the scheme and structure of the Constitution, particularly the trichotomy of power, separation of judiciary from executive, independence of judiciary as an organ of state, access to justice to citizens regarding enforcement of fundamental right, fair trial and due process.

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