ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Tuesday maintained the verdict of Lahore High Court wherein it had ruled that jurisdiction of court martial cannot be invoked against an army official over concealment of assets or fake declaration of income tax returns.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar also rejected the appeal of federation challenging the LHC decision and against Lt-Col (retd) Munir Ahmed Gill, who was court-martialled over concealment of assets.

Lt-Col (retd) Munir Ahmed Gill was arrested in June 1997 by the special investigation branch on charges of receiving commission on the purchase of approximately 6,000 tons of sugar for military use.

In 1999, he was convicted by Field General Court Martial (FGCM) in Rawalpindi for receiving commission, concealing his property and filing false income tax returns.

After his indictment by the FGCM, the army official was sentenced to one-year rigorous imprisonment and dismissal from service.

In August 1999, then Chief of Army Staff General Pervez Musharraf had pardoned the officer’s imprisonment but upheld the punishment.

However, Gill in 2000 had invoked the jurisdiction of the high court against his 1999 conviction by the FGCM on charges of concealment his property to claim financial benefits from the army.

Gill in his petition before the LHC’s Rawalpindi bench had pleaded that the FGCM had overstepped its jurisdiction while convicting him for filing false income tax returns as such charges can only be tried by a civilian court.

On 12 January 2009, the LHC became convinced and set aside a 1999 sentence of the FGCM against Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Munir Ahmed Gill which found him guilty of filing fake income tax returns, including other instances of frauds.

The LHC setting aside the orders of FGCM had ousted the jurisdiction of the FGCM in regard to the charges pertaining to income tax returns.

During the course of instant hearing, Additional Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti informed the court that the army officials are expected to remain transparent regarding their assets.

He further informed the bench that concealment of assets by an army official is tantamount to dishonesty.

The bench which also comprising Justice Umer Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan observed that there is no mandatory provision for military officials to disclose their assets.

Justice Nisar noted that even in misrepresentation of assets, a military official would not qualify for a court martial instead the matter would fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

The law officer further submitted that there is an obligation for a military official that he should be truthful and honest in his conduct.

However, Justice Ahsan observed that statements given to an unauthorised institution would not be considered as misconduct.

The bench however observed that a military court has no jurisdiction to remove any official on the basis of non-disclosure of assets.

Following dismissal of government’s appeal, the ex-army official Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Munir Ahmed Gill shall be entitled to all pensioner benefits as in accordance with the LHC order.