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All eyes on review of Pak Army Chief's tenure extension verdict

Islamabad

28-December-2019

The request by the Pakistan government before the Supreme Court to review its November 28 verdict on the extension of Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa's tenure by a larger bench has sparked a debate among legal circles, with everyone eagerly awaiting the composition of the bench to hear the matter.

Will Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed constitute a five-judge bench or a larger one, to be headed by himself, or simply decline the government's request and fix the matter before the same bench consisting of the judge who authored the verdict and another senior judge with the chief presiding is the question being asked by everyone.

But everyone believes that the time is ripe to end perceived institutional polarisation in the best interests of the country by sticking to the Constitution.

The federal government moved a review petition before the Supreme Court on Thursday to seek a review of the Nov 28 verdict in which a three-judge Supreme Court bench, comprising former chief justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, had held the extension granted by the government to Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa would end after six months in case parliament did not legislate and determine his service tenure, the Dawn reported.

A perception is growing that since the petition of Riaz Hanif Rahi against the extension was poorly argued and not well represented, certain issues have cropped up in the judgement and needed to be addressed by the Supreme Court.

To constitute the bench is the chief justice's discretion, but since the matter is of public importance, the decision should come after an open hearing, said a senior counsel.

The normal practice under Supreme Court rules is that the review petition is placed before the bench that heard the first one. The rules also suggest that the case be argued by the lawyer who earlier represented the petitioner unless the court allows a different counsel under certain circumstances.

In case a larger bench is constituted, the author judge against whose judgement the review is being sought will also be a member of the newly constituted bench, in addition to the third judge of the previous one.

The lawyers' community, however, believes that any exercise carried out by the chief justice should be done with extreme care since it may lead to unnecessary speculation that an opportunity of fresh hearing is being afforded to dilute the effects of the previous decision.

But since the government's petition has thrown up a number of questions, there is no harm if the case is heard at length to help reach a definitive conclusion, they argue.

The Supreme Court is on a winter break till January 5, although ordinary cases are being heard by different benches. It is likely that if the government's petition is not fixed by next week, the case could be placed before a bench only after the vacations.

But all agree that unless the operation of the November 28 verdict is suspended, the government is obliged to implement the directives contained in it by invoking parliamentary proceedings for determining the service tenure of the army chief.IANS