KOMAL Mughal’s case for seeking custody of nine-year-old and five-year-old daughters, recovery of dowry articles and maintenance is a glaring example of inordinate delay in disposal of cases at district judiciary level as she had spent four long years in search of justice but it still seems a distant dream.
Komal told The News that she had been appearing in a guardian court in the provincial metropolis for more than four years, seeking recovery of dowry articles from her former husband and custody of her minor daughters. “I made incalculable appearances in a guardian court,” she said.
She had only heard about “courts” or saw the “proceedings” in the movies – never thought that one day she would have to appear before a court. Her sad tale started in 2008 when she got a decree of dissolution of marriage from a family court.
Feeling embarrassed, her former husband Kashif Bhutta moved a petition in guardian court in 2009 for permanent custody of minor girls, Mirrat Kashif (9) and Maha Kashif(5). The court granted interim custody to the lady. Afterwards, the case kept on lingering on as Bhutta moved number of miscellaneous applications every now and then to abuse the process of law. Ironically, Kashif Bhutta had settled in Canada and secured permanent residence there. So, he had voluntarily surrendered her right of visitation to his daughters. He comes to Pakistan once a year during summer vacation and gets custody of minors for at least 15 days. This year, Kashif Bhutta, had again got custody of minors and removed them out of jurisdiction of guardian court to his native city, Sialkot.
Komal also approached the family court in 2010 for the recovery of dowry articles, lying with Kashif Bhutta and maintenance of minors.
After relentless efforts, the custody case has now reached at the stage of final arguments but in dowry articles and maintenance case not a single witness has been recorded so far mainly due to non-seriousness of court and lawyers to some extent. Moreover, an additional district & sessions judge had barred trial court from passing final judgment in dowry articles and maintenance case and fixed it for August 5. Kashif Bhutta had moved a miscellaneous application in trial court, offering to return some dowry article. The trial court dismissed the same, ruling that issues had already been framed and the case was at stage of evidence. However, appellate court issued a restraining order without considering the real facts of the case.
Komal said, “Everyone gawks at me. Their eyes probe me. It was embarrassing.”
“Any respectable woman would never wish to go to court unless she is forced by circumstances.” For her, the court’s environment was unpleasant. “It was overcrowded and one cannot stand there properly.” Her counsel, Ch Shafiq advocate told The News that under West Pakistan Family Law Court Act 1964, a family suit should be disposed of in six months. Moreover, National Judicial Policy says that a family case must be decided in four months. But what has been happening in this case is a glaring example of “justice delayed, justice denied.”
Komal has appealed to Lahore High Court Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial to take notice of situation and help her in quick disposal of her cases that otherwise should have been decided much earlier.
Apart from the unfriendly court atmosphere, litigation, spread over years in the family cases, becomes a source of mental agony for women seeking custody of their children but are dependent on their parents or brothers and sisters.
“Lower judiciary is overburdened. Judges hear several cases in a day and they fix next date of hearing after several weeks.” But this means adding to the difficulties of women.
For speedy trial, Komal wants speedy courts for deciding family matters to meet deadline of six months, prescribed in relevant law.
Her counsel said women face problems in the court because of “uncivilised attitude,” adding that it discourages a woman to approach the court on her own despite a disturbed family life. He said that in some instances, after filing a case against their husbands, women are harassed and threatened.
“In such a situation, police also declare it a family matter as an excuse and do not take it seriously.”
Komal has appealed to the Lahore High Court chief justice to issue special directions of quick disposal of family and guardian cases.