SC Grants Conditional Permission For Military Courts To Issue May 9 Verdicts

As many as 20 suspects could be released by Eidul Fitr if the three remaining legal processes are completed

SC Grants Conditional Permission For Military Courts To Issue May 9 Verdicts

The Supreme Court on Thursday conditionally allowed military courts to issue previously reserved verdicts regarding May 9 incidents. 

The top court said that judgements can be announced in cases where the suspects could be released before Eid.

The court issued the directives after hearing the federal government's Intra-Court Appeal (ICA) against its verdict of October 23, wherein a five-judge bench headed by former judge Justice Ijazul Ahsan had declared the military trials of civilians involved in the May 9 riots as illegal. 

On Thursday, a six-judge bench headed by Justice Aminuddin Khan heard the case. Members of the bench included Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Azhar Hasan Rizvi, Justice Shahid Waheed, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan.

During the hearing, the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) Mansoor Usman Awan hinted at the release of 15 to 20 of the accused by the military courts by Eid, provided the courts are allowed to issue their verdicts. He informed the bench that a total of 105 suspects are currently in the military’s custody, adding that there were three stages to the release of the accused. 

The AGP further told the bench that the first step would involve announcing the reserved judgements, the second would be their confirmation, and the third would be for the Chief or Army Staff to give concessions to those with reduced or shorter sentences.

AGP Awan requested the top court to allow the military courts to announce their reserved verdicts.

The bench observed that even if permission is granted, it will be subject to the final decision on the instant appeals. 

During the hearing, Justice Rizvi inquired about the names of those who would be released. 

AGP Awan replied that they cannot provide the requested names until the military courts decide the cases.

He, however, submitted that those sentenced up to a year will be granted concessions.

The top court noted that the AGP had assured that those with lesser sentences would be granted legal concessions. 

The top court subsequently gave conditional permission to military courts to announce the reserved verdicts. 

The court also directed the AGP to submit a report in this regard to the registrar.

The court also accepted the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s plea to withdraw its appeal against the October 23 ruling. The plea had been filed by the caretaker government at the time. 

The bench adjourned further hearings until the fourth week of April.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain