Monday, December 14, 2015

Pakistan's military courts: status report

Dawn, the leading Pakistani newspaper, has run this excellent summary of the current state of affairs concerning the country's military courts. This remain very much up in the air with respect to the role of the Supreme Court and other civilian courts in reviewing judgments of the military courts created under the 21st Amendment. Excerpt:
The apex court had on Aug 3 validated the Constitution (21st Amendment) Act. In the said judgment, the court had also discussed the powers of judicial review of the high courts and Supreme Court in cases decided by military courts.
“During the course of proceedings, the learned Attorney General for Pakistan attempted to indicate that the selection and the transfer of case for trial by the Court Martial and the eventual orders passed and sentence awarded may be beyond the powers of Judicial Review of the High Courts and this Court. In this behalf, reference was made to the bar of jurisdiction contained in Article 199(3) of the Constitution. We are afraid that such is contrary to the settled law of the land as repeatedly annunciated by this Court,” the court had ruled in Para 167 of its judgment. 
The Supreme Court also explained the situation wherein the high courts could exercise powers of judicial review. “In view of the above, there can be no manner of doubt that it is a settled law that any order passed or sentence awarded by a Court Martial or other Forums under the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, included as amended by the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015, is subject to the Judicial Review both by the High Courts and this Court, inter alia, on the ground of coram-non-judice, without jurisdiction or suffering from mala fides including malice in law. This would also hold true for any decision selecting or transferring a case for trial before a Court Martial.”

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