Constitutional sanction through Amendment: military officers to replace HC judges in terrorism-related cases

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government would move “Constitutional (twenty-first) Amendment Bill, 2015” for establishment of Special Courts headed by military officers for speedy trial of terrorists in the coming session of the National Assembly to be held on January 5, it is learnt.

According to sources, the PML-N government would introduce the ‘twenty-first amendment’ in the Constitution for establishment of Special Courts for a period of two years. The legislation would amend Article 212-B of ‘Twelfth Amendment (1991)’ of the Constitution.

The sources said that the main purpose of the amendment is to replace a Judge of a High Court with a military officer. According to Article 212-B of the Constitution, Establishment of Special Courts for trial of heinous offences; “(3) A Special Court shall consist of a Judge, being a person who is, or has been or is qualified for appointment as, a Judge of a High Court and is appointed by the Federal Government after consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.”

An amendment requires a two-third majority for its passage; therefore, the PML-N government has taken all parliamentary parties into confidence for preparing a draft of the Bill. The source said that the government is preparing a draft of “Constitution Amendment Bill, 2015” with consultation of legal team of all parliamentary parties for a smooth its passage from the Parliament.

The sources said the Bill is likely to be tabled in the National Assembly on January 7. They said that the Senate is already in session and the PML-N government may first table the Bill in the Upper House of Parliament.

In the wake of the Peshawar school tragedy, all the parliamentary parties on December 24 agreed to set up Special Trial Courts headed by army officers for the trial of terrorists. In 1999, the Supreme Court declared the setting up of military courts as unconstitutional and illegal, therefore, the political leadership have decided to amend the Constitution so as to provide a constitutional cover to the proposed special courts.

When an amendment was made to the Constitution to insert 212-B in 1991 the then government first promulgated the Special Courts for Speedy Trial Ordinance and then enacted the Special Courts for Speedy Trial Act 1992.

According to Article 212-B, “(1) In order to ensure speedy trial of cases of persons accused of the heinous offences specified by law as are referred to them by the Federal Government, or an authority or person authorised by it, in view of their being gruesome, brutal and sensational in character or shocking to public morality, the Federal Government may by law constitute as many Special Courts as it may consider necessary.

(2) Where the Federal Government constitutes more than one Special Court, it shall determine the territorial limits within which each one of them shall exercise jurisdiction.”