ISLAMABAD: On Monday, Justice Tariq Masood of the Supreme Court withdrew himself from presiding over intra-court appeals against the trial of civilians in military courts. This led to the dissolution of a six-member larger bench.
In December of the previous year, the larger bench had conditionally suspended its judgment on military courts, with a majority of 5-1, while Justice Musarrat Hilali dissented.
The bench included other members such as Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hassan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Musarrat Hilali, and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan.
During the recent hearing of the intra-court appeal before the same bench, Khawaja Ahmad Hasan, the lawyer for petitioner former Chief Justice Jawad S Khawaja, objected to the bench.
The counsel demanded the reconstitution of the bench and requested the matter to be referred to the judges’ committee responsible for case assignment under the Supreme Court (Practice and Procedure) Act 2023.
Justice Masood prohibited Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA) counsel Hamid Khan from presenting arguments, stating, “If we don’t have to hear the case, then don’t give arguments.” He mentioned that an objection had been raised regarding his participation in the bench.
Following Justice Masood’s recusal, the bench was dissolved, and the matter was referred to the judges’ committee for the reconstitution of the bench.
The Supreme Court clarified that its decision to annul the trial of civilians in military courts would remain suspended, and the new bench would handle the intra-court appeals.
Lawyers Salman Akram Raja, Aitzaz Hasan, and Latif Khosa urged the Supreme Court to schedule the appeal hearing after the general election set for February 8.
On October 23 of the previous year, the Supreme Court had declared the trial of civilians in military courts unconstitutional. The court held that individuals involved in the events arising from the May 9-10 protests should be tried by criminal courts established under ordinary or special law, totaling 103 persons and others.
The protests erupted following the arrest of PTI founder Imran Khan in a corruption case, with alleged PTI supporters attacking and ransacking government and military installations.
The authorities had opted for military trials for the rioters, prompting challenges in the top court on the grounds of transparency.
Subsequently, on December 13, 2023, the Supreme Court’s larger bench conditionally suspended its judgment on the defence ministry and caretaker government’s plea.