Suo-moto judgment for Criminal Cases vs Summary Military Trials (Kangroo Courts)

I would like to invite those interested in law and constitution to comment on this post. Here I am looking at the role of Suomoto Judgment in criminal cases and cases related to corruption. I think suo-moto was originally conceived in the constitution for constitutional cases and constitutional rights cases that require immediate action where general interest of people is being violated.

How suo-moto cases of supreme court
compare with summary military trial courts

If I think someone is guilty, then the legal course for me is to pursue the case as per “due process of law” under article 10A of constitution that upholds the “right to fair trial” as a fundamental human right. This applies equally to all citizens especially more so to CJP whose primary responsibility is to uphold the rule of law in dispensation of justice through ALL levels of judiciary: The fundamental criteria for evaluating quality of justice include “justice delayed is justice denied” and “justice should not only be done but also seen to be done”.

The due process of law hinges on the assumption of “innocence unless proven guilty” and the process includes (i) right to be charged in front of court of law, (ii) open trial, (iii) prosecution, (iv) presentation of witnesses and evidence in an open court, (v) right to defense (vi) right to cross examine the witnesses and evidence, (vii) open verdict, (viii) right to appeal….

The table given above compares SC’s suo-moto judgments for criminal cases with SMTs i.e. Summary Military Courts Trials (or Kangaroo Courts). It is interesting to note that Suo-moto cases fare worse than even the SMTs in the following areas:

  1. Right to be charged and tried in a trial court: Here the SMT is at least a trial court. Whereas, a suo-moto case neither charges the defendant nor give him the opportunity for a trial. SMTs often are not open trials. Many a time in a suo-moto hearing several people are called at once and no one knows who is a defendant or witness or accuser.
  2. Prosecutor presents the case against the defendant. At least SMT has a prosecutor who reads out the charges. Whereas, there are no formal charges in a suo-moto hearing. CJP may ask any question on the spur of the moment or may say anything on any matter relevant or irrelevant. Even the nature of the case is not clear at the time. The case unfolds at the whims of the judge. 
  3. Presentation of evidence or witnesses. At least the SMTs go through some facade of witnesses or evidence
  4. Right to defendants to articulate the defense or rebuttal the allegations. Often during the suo-moto the defendant is given no time or opportunity to speak or rebut the allegations. 
  5. Right to cross examine the witness or evide. In suo-moto cases, a judge gives no opportunity to the defendant to cross examine the witnesss or evidence. SMTs are also similar in this. 
  6. Right to appeal: Both the suo-moto and the SMTs often provide not recourse for appeal. Some times, there is a limited option of appeal in SMTs. But, once supreme court has given a decision, who can dispute or hear the appeal. Often in a suo-moto case, the appeal is heard by the same judges who had given the previous decision. 
  7. Presumption of Innocent unless proven guilty. Both suo-moto as well as SMTs indicate that the presumption has been reversed. People are called to these hearings on the assumption that they are guilty unless proven innocent. However, the hands are tied behind the defendants as they are not given the due process of law to establish their innocence. 
  8. Justice should not only be done, but also seen to be done. This maxim gets violated the moment these two type of hearings take place. The fundamental foundation of modern system of justice is violated in both these hearings on this account. 


  1. Is suo motu action the only way to get justice in a country like Pakistan?
  2. A question of suo-moto
  3. The exercise of suo motu
  4. Judicial Activism Of The High Court Using SUO MOTU
  5. A History of the Judiciary in Pakistan by Hamid Khan

See Also:


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