ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed all the appeals against the death sentences awarded by the military courts .

Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali announced 182 pages judgment, authored by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, saying that ‘all the appeals (have been) dismissed’.

As many as 17 convicts, including Qari Zubair, Haider Ali, Qari Zahir Gul, Taj Muhammad, Atteeq-ur-Rehman, Akhtar Mahmood, Fateh Muhammad, Sher Alam, Muhammad Arabi and others, were found guilty of involvement in the Army Public School Attack in Peshawar, Parade Line bombing in Rawalpindi, the Bannu jailbreak and attacks on army convoys and installations.

Attorney General for Pakistan Ashthar Ausaf said now the impediment in execution of sentence of the convicts has been removed.

Total 17 appeals were filed, out of which the Laeeq Bacha appeal was already dismissed.

A five-member bench, headed by CJP, had reserved its decision on remaining 16 petitions on June 20. Army Chief General Raheel Sharif had already rejected appeals of these 16 convicts.

The decision marks the first time the highest court has ruled on the legality of cases tried by the military. The bench ruled that appellants had not proved the military violated their constitutional rights or failed to follow procedure.

The military courts were established after the 21st Amendment in the Constitution and the changes in Pakistan Army Act (PAA), 1952.

The court observed that after the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015 the convicts were subject to the Act and were liable to be tried and the offence was triable by the Field General Court Martial (FGCM), therefore its proceedings are not without jurisdiction. Also, the cases were not of ‘no evidence’ or ‘insufficient evidence’.

The judgment said that 17-member larger bench of SC with 11 to 6 ratio had not declared the 21st Amendment and PAA 2015 ultra vires.

It had also said that any proceedings, convictions and sentences awarded by the FGCM can be called into question on the ground of mala fides of fact. However, mere allegation is not sufficient to establish mala fide of facts.

The judgment noted if there is a fundamental legal flaw in the constitution of the FGCM then action taken would be coram non judice, hence without jurisdiction.

It noted that convicts were accused under clause 2(1)(d)(iii) of PAA as incorporated through the Army Act therefore they were liable to be tired by the military courts .

“No new offence has been created and (there is) only a change of forum (FGCM),” the court said, adding that date of occurrence of offence has no real significance.

It said after confirmation of sentence by FGCM, no application was filed before the competent authority for supply of copies of proceedings. The applications were not even moved during the pendency of proceeding before high court or SC.

“In the circumstances, we are not persuaded that any prejudice has been caused to the petitioners,” it said. At no point of time (during FGCM trial or proceedings of HCs/SC) any allegation of specific mala fides of fact were made against FGCM members.

The court said the petitioners did not plead that any FGCM member either had any personal bias against any convict or established on record that any proceeding or conviction by FGCM was result of any evil intention of any member of military court.

“Therefore conviction and sentence of the convict(s) cannot be set aside on the ground of mala fides of fact,” SC ruled.

The petitioners’ cases were that the FGCMs were not duly convened and constituted in terms of the PAA 1952, as amended. “(But) no illegality or infirmity, in this behalf, was pointed out or noticed.”

The judgment said when the convicts were asked to engage civil defence counsels they refused, therefore, defending officers were appointed in term of Rule 81 of PAA Rules.

Regarding FGCM trails’ validity in view of Section 91 of PAA, 1952, the court said the three years period had passed between the occurrence and the commencement of the trial. The convicts, being subject to the PAA, were tried for the civil offence in terms of section 59. The provision of section 91 was thus not attracted, as a trial for a civil offence under section 59 has been specifically excluded from the operation of section 91 of PAA.

About the power of judicial (review) by high courts or SC, the judgment said it has been clarified that neither high courts nor apex court can sit in appeal over FGCM findings or analyse the evidence produced before it or dwell into the ‘merit’ of the case. The court said the convicts have confessed to their charges before the judicial magistrate.

The judgment said that perusal of FGCMs record reveals that to ensure fair trial and to protect convicts’ rights, the relevant rules were complied with and the summary of evidence had been taken and was laid before the FGCMs.