ISLAMABAD - The bench hearing the petitions against the 21st constitutional amendment under which military courts have been established in the country for the trial of terrorists has been changed.

The three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Nasir ul Mulk that had to resume the hearing on February 24 has been changed and now the bench headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and comprising Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh and Justice Mushir Alam would hear the Lahore High Court Bar Association, Supreme Court Bar Association, Pakistan Bar Council and eight other petitions.

Justice Nasir ul Mulk had the heart attack in Peshawar on February 16 and remained admitted to the hospital in Peshawar then he was brought back to Islamabad and had check up in Armed Force Institute of Cardiology (AFIC), and was admitted there. The last year when Special Court had summoned former military ruler Gen. (Retd) Pervez Musharraf then he also remained admitted to AFIC for around two months.

In the last hearing, the bench had granted 10 more days to the federal, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan governments to file statements on pleas against setting up of military courts and the petition of Nadeem Ahmed, who had challenged the 18th Amendment, particularly addition of Article 175A in the Constitution. After the submission of concise statements the matter shall be referred to the full court the chief justice said. So far except Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, neither federation nor other provinces have filed the statements.

On January 28 the bench had issued notices to Attorney General for Pakistan and advocate generals of the all the provinces with the direction to submit replies. However, except Advocate General Khyber Pakhtunkhwa other did not file the concise statements.

The chief justice said that the ample time was granted for filing concise statements as the legal issues were raised in the petition. Attorney General Salman Butt responded; “Certain factual issues have been raised, therefore we want little time to highlight them.”

The petitions filed under Article 184(3) has prayed the court to strike down the 21st Amendment on number of grounds mainly that it undermines the independence of judiciary and its separation from the executive and violates the basic features of the Constitution. It also says that the proceeding before military courts takes away the jurisdiction of superior courts and abridges the fundamental rights of those whose cases will be put up for trial.