ISLAMABAD: Justice Yahya Afridi, a member of six-judge bench of the Supreme Court that is hearing the petitions against the trial of civilians under the Army Act, urged the chief justice of Pakistan to refer the present petitions to a Full Court.
Justice Afridi stated this in his additional note, made public on Tuesday, following the June 23 hearing.
The chief justice had initially constituted a nine-judge bench for hearing of these petitions. Justice Qazi Faez Isa and Justice Sardar Tariq Masood separated at the start of the first hearing, while Justice Mansoor Ali Shah recused from the seven-member bench on June 26, due to the objection raised by Attorney General for Pakistan on his inclusion in the bench.
Subsequently, CJP Umar Ata Bandial, constituted a six-judge bench, which besides him comprised Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Munib Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, and Justice Ayesha Malik is hearing a set of petitions against civilians’ trials in military courts.
In an additional note, Justice Afridi said the entire edifice of a credible justice system was based on public trust.
“In the current politically charged scenario, where the term of the present government is drawing close to its end and the nation is gearing up for fresh elections, the political murmuring against the composition of the present bench could be palatable.”
“But what is most serious and cannot be disregarded is that there are objections in writing from within the members of the bench, to the very constitution of the bench hearing the present petitions,” he pointed out.
Referring to Justice Isa’s statement, Justice Afridi said that the puisne judge had recorded his objections in writing which were now in the public domain.
“Thus the matter of the present composition of the bench warrants urgent attention and reconsideration by the CJP, lest it may dampen the public trust in the justice system.”
Justice Afridi clarified that he was not “endorsing or agreeing” with Justice Isa’s reasons, adding that he did not find it “appropriate to comment on the legality thereof” at the present stage of the proceedings.
“Yet, even if one may not agree with the law points raised in the objections of the senior puisne judge, propriety demands taking appropriate
measures for ‘maintenance of harmony’ with the
court, the ‘integrity of the institution’ and ‘public trust in the court’,” he highlighted.
As a first step, Justice Afridi continued, the appropriate measure would be the constitution of a full court to hear the petitions. “Without taking such a measure, I submit with the utmost respect, any judgment rendered in these petitions by the present bench may lead to the diminishing of the deference the decision requires and deserves,” he added.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023