ISLAMABAD: Soldiers’ trial in civil courts, SC resolute to decide the issue, says Justice Khawaj

The Supreme Court has engaged up for consideration the issue of registering a criminal case against serving personnel of the armed forces under ordinary civil law.

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Hearing a suo motu case regarding the alleged removal of 35 missing persons from an internment centre, a three-judge bench sought assistance from the attorney general of Pakistan (AGP) and Khyber Pakhtunkwa’s (K-P) advocate general, who will submit their replies on Thursday (today).

The bench, led by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, also required the officials as to what should be the appropriate assembly for such trial – if a criminal case could be registered against serving army officials. It also asked whether further proceedings would be initiated in civil or military tribunal.

During the hearing, K-P’s AG Latif Yousafzai informed the bench near the provincial administration’s decision to shut down the case against some army officials – including Naib Subedar Amanullah Baig.

He pronounced the event had been transferred to the army authorities for further investigation and any subsequent trial under the Pakistan Army Act 1952. Citing reasons for closing the font, the AG said the issue fell under the concurrent jurisdiction and thus the event was changed over to the military for further transactions.

The workbench, however, pointed out that the district coordination officer Malakand had stated that he shifted the case on the decrees of the superiors. “The court will examine the matter close to shifting of the shell to a military court in the luminosity of the Constitution and other legal provisions,” observed Justice Khawaja

He stated the Constitution gives supremacy to civilian courts. “However, if the military federal agencies believe it is at their discretion to remove a case from a civil court than the top court will examine the matter,” he appended

He pronounced a similar question was brought up in the event of a missing person Tasif Ali and Advocate Ibrahim Satti, appearing on behalf of the Military Intelligence (MI), had said that an FIR could not be registered against serving army officials under Army Act 1952.

Interestingly, a former AGP, Muneer A Malik, had accepted that an FIR could be recorded against any serving military official. Withal, in response to a query of the bench, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Waqas Dar on Wednesday said an FIR could not be filed against military officials.

Justice Khawaja reminded him that an FIR had also been recorded. “ Nowadays the query is as to whether the trail [of military personnel] can be broached in a civil court or not,” he stated, adding that although the matter could not be squared off since 1856 the court was resolved immediately to adjudicate it.

For the first time in Pakistan’s history, a defence minister on March 21 lodged an FIR under Section 346 against those army officials, who are allegedly involved in the illegal removal of 35 undeclared inmates from an internment centre in Malakand.

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