Imran is among those who have filed the petitions contesting such trials. “It is impossible to make a full court at this time. Three judges had excused themselves from hearing the case, some judges are not in the country,” Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, leading a six-member bench, said.
CJ Bandial pointed out that two more judges had recused themselves on the first day of hearing. “We were surprised when the government came to the second hearing and objected to a judge. The bench shrunk from nine to six,” the CJ said.
Besides, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran, former Chief Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, legal expert Aitzaz Ahsan and others have challenged the government’s plans to try the protesters in military courts, calling it unconstitutional.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the government defended its move, urged the court to dismiss all petitions and contended that under Article 245 of the Constitution, the armed forces had the obligation to defend Pakistan against “external aggression or threat of war”.
“To create deterrence in respect of such attacks, our constitutional framework allows perpetrators (an allusion to Imran and his party members) of such vandalism and violence to be tried under the Pakistan Army Act,” the government said.
But the apex court emphasised constitutional protection of civilians. “Military courts conduct summary trials, do not issue reasons in judgments, and don’t record evidence either; these courts are not open for the public,” CJ Bandial observed.
Civilians, the CJ said, should not be subjected to undue harshness. He noted that military laws were very tough, different from ordinary provisions. Nonetheless, he conceded that the May 9 violence was serious, adjourning the matter till Wednesday.