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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Lahore High Court makes history by setting aside a sentence of the Field General Court Martial (FGCM)

Lahore High Court makes history

The Lahore High Court set aside on Monday a 1999 sentence of the Field General Court Martial (FGCM) against an army officer it found guilty of filing fake income tax returns, apart from other instances of fraud. While not pronouncing on the other charges, the Court has ousted the jurisdiction of the FGCM in regard to charges pertaining to income tax returns. This is hailed by the press as a “revolutionary” decision by the Rawalpindi bench’s Justice Maulvi Anwarul Haq that might “open the floodgates to appeals against the military justice system”. One can add a corrective here by saying that only cases falling outside the jurisdiction of the military courts would be entertained.

The decision is considered “revolutionary” because the court has not been under pressure to ignore the legal lacuna in the case. In the past, senior army officers have been able to deter the higher judiciary into submission. In one case, the army chief himself tried to influence the Supreme Court and, when a case was brought against him for offering contempt, compelled the Court to back off. In another case of “lifting” of a senior journalist by the ISI, a Lahore High Court judge claimed lack of jurisdiction “because the ISI contained serving army officers” despite the fact that the ISI was created by an act of parliament and worked under the prime minister. (Daily Times)

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