A six-member Supreme Court bench will hear a set of intra-court appeals (ICAs) challenging its Oct 23 unanimous verdict, wherein it had nullified military trials of 103 civilians, on Dec 15 (Wednesday). In the widely praised ruling, a five-member SC bench – comprising Justices Ijazul Ahsan, Munib Akhtar, Yahya Afridi, Syed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi and Ayesha Malik – had declared that trying 103 civilians in military courts for their alleged role in attacks on army installations during the riots that followed ex-premier Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9 was ultra vires the Constitution. The apex court had declared that the accused would not be tried in military courts but in criminal courts of competent jurisdiction established under the ordinary or special law of the land. The appeals have been filed by the caretaker federal government as well as the provincial ones in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. Meanwhile, Sindh has denied filing a purported plea on the same matter. The defence ministry has also moved an ICA before the SC against its judgement, requesting the apex court to suspend the verdict’s operation during the pendency of the appeal. In addition to the ICAs, a contempt of court petition had also been filed before the Supreme Court against Defence Secretary retired Lt Gen Hamooduz Zaman Khan for allegedly disregarding its Oct 23 verdict. According to a cause list released today, a six-member larger bench headed by Justice Sardar Tariq Masood will take up the ICAs at 11:30am on Dec 13 (Wednesday). The bench includes Justice Aminuddin Khan, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, Justice Syed Hasan Azhar Rizvi, Justice Musarrat Hilali and Justice Irfan Saadat Khan. The ICAs claim that through the order, the SC had traversed beyond its jurisdiction and excluded from the ambit of the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952, civilians who may be guilty of committing offences specified in Section 2 (d)(1) of the PAA, thereby considerably undermining the ability of armed forces to discharge their constitutional duty to defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war and thus violating the very letter and purport of Article 245 (1) (functions of armed forces) of the Constitution. The appeals questioned whether seducing or attempting to seduce any person who was subject to PAA from his duty or allegiance to government, or commission of any offence under the Official Secrets Act 1923 – in relation to any work of defence, arsenal, military establishment or station or military affairs of Pakistan – by civilians were not acts having direct nexus with armed forces. Thus the civilians accused of these offences are legally triable under PAA as held in and on the touchstone of the principle laid down in a previous case of retired Brig F.B. Ali.