Justice Masood refuses to recuse as SC hears appeals against military court verdict

Six-member bench is hearing set of intra-court pleas against SC’s verdict declaring trials in military courts null and void

Supreme Court Justice Sardar Tariq Masood. — Supreme Court website 

ISLAMABAD: Supreme Court’s Justice Sardar Tariq Masood on Wednesday refused to recuse from the six-member bench hearing the intra-court appeals challenging its verdict where it declared civilians’ trials in military courts null and void in connection with the May 9 riots.

On Monday, the top court was moved against the inclusion of Justice Masood’s inclusion in the bench slated to hear the intra-court appeals against the top court’s October 23 verdict annulling civilians’ trials in military courts.

Justice Masood heads the six-member SC bench that is hearing the multiple pleas filed by the federal government, Ministry of Defence, and provincial governments of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan against the SC verdict. 

The bench also comprises Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Musarrat Hilali, and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan.

The federal government, following the May 9 riots — erupted after the arrest of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-then chairman Imran Khan — which saw military installations being vandalised across the country, had announced to hold military trials of those allegedly involved in the riots.

However, multiple petitions were filed in the SC by Imran, Aitzaz Ahsan, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) Executive Director Karamat Ali, and former chief justice of Pakistan Jawwad S Khawaja against the military trials of civilians.

On October 23, a five-member apex court bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan unanimously admitted the aforesaid pleas and nullified the government’s decision to try civilians in military courts.

Following the SC verdict, federal and provincial governments along with the defence ministry filed intra-court appeals (ICAs) against the said verdict.

However, ex-CJP Khawaja, in his petition filed on Monday, contended that Justice Masood had already expressed his views on the said matter via his written note and so must recuse himself from the bench,

Khawaja’s petition further argued that since Justice Masood considers the petitions “unusual”, it indicates “a predisposition which compromises, possibly substantively and certainly as a matter of perception, independent and unbiased adjudication.”

It also contended that Masood, in his note, found that each case has to be considered on facts, he therefore, reached the conclusion that the petitions against civilians’ military trial were not maintainable under Article 184(3) of the Constitution.

Stressing that a judge who has, without hearing the parties, made a public and written finding in respect of a specific issue between the parties, the plea highlights that it would not be fair for Justice Masood to hear this matter.

More to follow…

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