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Constitutional amendment required to court-martial a civilian, SC tells govt

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ISLAMABAD: A judge of the Supreme Court on Monday remarked that a constitutional amendment would be required if the government wants to proceed with court-martialling a civilian, reported Geo News.

Justice Munir Akhtar made the remarks while hearing a petition filed by the government against an earlier order of the top court that had directed federal authorities to release Advocate Inamur Rahim — a rights activist — from state custody.

Rahim, a retired colonel, has fought court cases on behalf of the families of several missing persons. He was picked up last year from his home in Rawalpindi by unidentified men.

After his abduction, his son, Husnain Inam, had filed a complaint in the Lahore High Court related to his father’s disappearance.

Retired Brig Wasif had filed the complaint and represented Husnain in court as his counsel.

A representative of the Ministry of Defense in January had informed the Lahore High Court (LHC) that Rahim was in the custody of law enforcement agencies and was being interrogated.

The court had later in January ordered Rahim’s release on medical grounds.

The government had then released Rahim on the condition that he surrender his passport, local media had reported.

In a hearing regarding the case conducted today, the top court grilled Additional Attorney-General Aamir Rehman as to why the government was not following court orders in relation to Rahim.

“Inamur Rahim is a retired military officer. How does he fall under the jurisdiction of the Official Secrets Act?” Justice Mushir Alam, who is on the bench hearing the case, asked the federal representative.

“Those who accused Inamur Rahim of committing serious crimes set him free later,” Justice Alam observed.

“Inamur Rahim is free but under interrogation at the moment,” AG Rehman informed the court.

“Rahim was not set free on government orders,” Justice Alam remarked, to which the additional attorney-general replied that Rahim was released by the government, but on other related issues.

“The Supreme Court has already clarified that a court martial cannot be carried out on a civilian. A constitutional amendment would be required to court-martial a civilian,” Justice Akhtar observed.

“A court martial of Rahim would be a violation of the orders of the Supreme Court,” Justice Akhtar said.

“Even army officers cannot be court-martialled for civilian crimes,” Justice Akhtar said.

“Are people detained without any due process and thought?” Justice Alam asked the additional attorney general.

“The LHC has already ruled on the matter extensively,” Rehman told the court.

“The government needs time to come up with responses to the points raised by the court. I will reply to the objections of the court after consulting the concerned people,” Rehman added.

The court approved the request and granted the government a time of three weeks to come up with answers to the queries raised by the judges in the courtroom today. 

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