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Supreme Court upholds verdict against court martial decision

    ISLAMABAD: While dismissing a review petition of the government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld its judgement that the army had no authority to prosecute and dismiss an officer from service through a field general court martial on charges related to income tax returns when the department concerned had not taken cognisance of any offence.

    A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar dismissed the petition seeking review of its 2014 verdict which had declared that the army did not have the authority to prosecute and dismiss retired colonel Munir Ahmed Gill from service by the FGCM on a charge related to income tax returns.

    The FGCM had convicted the officer of improperly filing his tax returns for the year 1996-97 by declaring his salary as his sole source of income though he had other sources of income also.

    Earlier in 2014, the apex court had dismissed a government appeal against the 2009 Lahore High Court judgement and ordered the defence ministry to provide pension benefits to the retired colonel who had reached superannuation in 2001 by holding that the officer should be deemed to be retired honourably from the Pakistan Army.

    Army can’t prosecute an officer for an offence that the department concerned didn’t take cognisance of, observes apex court

    Col Gill was tried on three charges relating to money matters and on the fourth charge relating to improperly filing of his tax returns for the year 1996-97.

    The FGCM, however, adjudicated Col Gill as guilty on all the four counts and awarded a sentence of dismissal from service coupled with one-year rigorous imprisonment on Aug 13, 1999. The competent authority later confirmed the findings against the officer on the fourth charge though it did not confirm the trial court decision on the other three charges and sent the same for further confirmation to the then chief of the army staff. The army chief remitted the one-year rigorous imprisonment but maintained the order of dismissal from the service.

    The appeal filed by the officer before the army court of appeals was also dismissed.

    The officer then moved a petition in the Lahore High Court that set aside the sentence under the fourth charge in 2009.

    Later in 2014 the Supreme Court held that falsifying income tax returns by an army officer would be covered under Section 55 of the Income Tax Act, because it displayed a lack of integrity. The judgement had held that the income tax returns in question were accepted by the income tax department and the officer was never asked to justify his returns.

    Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2018

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