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December 5, 2020

SHC disposes of plea of Arzoo’s father after he decides to approach family court for her custody

Karachi

December 5, 2020

Raja Lal, the father of 13-year-old Christian girl Arzoo Fatima whom a man married in contravention of the child marriage law after she converted to Islam, withdrew his application from the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday regarding his daughter’s custody after the high court told him that he was free to approach a family court for getting the custody of the girl.

Consequently, the SHC disposed of the application, which Arzoo’s father had filed for the clarification of an earlier high court order, under which Arzoo was sent to a shelter home, instead of handed over to her parents, as she had told the court that she did not want to go back to her family after her marriage had been declared invalid due to being a child marriage.

The father had filed the application before the court for the clarification of the SHC’s November 23 order. He wanted to know whether that order barred any competent court having such necessary jurisdiction from adjudicating upon the custody of the girl.

The applicant’s counsel, Jibran Nasir, requested for an urgent hearing of the matter and submitted that the high court may clarify the earlier order that the same did not bar a competent court having necessary jurisdiction to adjudicate the custody of Arzoo, who was 13 years old, from determining same in the interim or in the final, or else the applicant, who was the biological father of the girl, was left without remedy.

As matter was taken up before a division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha, the counsel for the applicant withdrew the application, stating that he wished to approach a family court regarding the custody of the minor girl.

The bench observed that in the event that the family court did not entertain the application based on an order of the high court on November 23, the applicant might approach the high court for redress of his grievance if such an application was maintainable under the law.

The SHC had on November 23 sent Arzoo to a shelter home as she could not be sent with her spouse after a medical board report declared her age to be between 13 and 14 years.

The high court observed that as the petitioner did not want to go with her parents, she might be kept at a shelter home and a social welfare department officer shall ensure her welfare in terms of physical and mental well-being, schooling and any other matters of concern.

The bench observed that Arzoo may pounder over her life choices and ordered that she may be allowed to meet those persons whom she agreed to meet, excluding her ex-spouse Ali Azhar and his relatives.

Arzoo had categorically stated before the court that she had converted to Islam of her own free will, had not been kidnapped by any party and had entered into the marriage of her own free will.

The high court had observed that as per medical report, and NADRA and school record, the petitioner was about 13 years and it was apparent that she was under 18 and it was not possible for her to enter into a legally valid marriage with Azhar under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act and thus, she could not be sent back to him.