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November 28, 2020

Suspect’s lawyer raises objections to rape charges in Arzoo case

Karachi

November 28, 2020

A judicial magistrate on Friday summoned the investigation officer (IO) of the case pertaining to the conversion and marriage of minor Christian girl Arzoo on the next hearing to decide the fate of the charge sheet against seven accused, including the man who married her.

The District South judicial magistrate-XXIII issued summons for the IO after listening to arguments by the defendants in opposition of the charge sheet which implicated Syed Azhar Ali for coercing the 13-year-old girl into marriage and committing her rape, and others, including two lawyers, as many witnesses, a justice of peace and a Nikah Khwan, for facilitating the child marriage.

Azhar’s lawyer argued that the Section 375(v) of the Pakistan Penal Code which defines sexual intercourse with a woman with or without her consent as rape if she was under 14 years of age and this could not be incorporated in the case since the medical board constituted by the Sindh High Court determined the girl’s age to be between 14 and 15 years old. He added that Islam allowed marriage after puberty and there was no age limit for that.

The lawyer duo, Mehmoodul Hasan and his assistant Junaid Siddiqui, also opposed the charge on the suspect under the sections 3 (punishment for male contracting party), 4 (punishment for solemnising a child marriage) and 5 (punishment for parent or guardian concerned in a child marriage) of the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, calling it a farce and an attempt by the police to malign them.

The investigation report, which was submitted before the South district magistrate, had exonerated three others, including two brothers and a friend of Azhar, for lack of evidence against them. It also removed the section of kidnapping from the case after the girl negated the allegation.

The magistrate after listening to the arguments from the defence side ordered the IO to appear in the court on December 1 along with the case file.

According to the charge sheet, Arzoo had eloped with Azhar, who is said to be around 40-year-old, on October 13, after which her father Raja lodged a complaint with the Frere police station alleging that her daughter was abducted by the accused.