Monday May 27, 2024

Dua Zahra can’t be allowed to live in Lahore after separation from spouse, rules SHC

By Jamal Khurshid & Yousuf Katpar
July 22, 2022

The Sindh High Court on Thursday ruled that Dua Zahra, a Karachi-based teenage girl who married of her free will a Lahore-based man, cannot be permitted to live on her own after being separated from her spouse till she attains majority and the pending case in Karachi is finally disposed of.

Disposing of a petition of Zahra’s father Syed Mehdi Ali Kazmi for the custody of her daughter, a division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Iqbal Kalhoro observed that the police can approach the relevant authority for obtaining the custody of the minor girl and shifting her to a shelter home at Karachi as there is no legal impediment.

The court observed that it is clear that Dua is no more on good terms with her spouse and does not want to live with him besides she has no place in Lahore to take shelter in for the time being and decide about future. It said it is also obvious that she being ostensibly afraid of her parents is also not interested in residing with them.

The court observed that in any case Zahra’s living in Lahore does not seem to be in her benefit from any angle, particularly after her separation from her husband, and it is likely to cause hindrance to smooth proceedings of the case. The court observed that Dua Zahara is still a minor and main witness in the case which is registered in Karachi and she is required to participate in its proceedings.

It further remarked that Zahra’s parents, who are her natural guardians, are residing in Karachi and the case and the trial court are situated in Karachi, and it will be appropriate to shift her to Karachi’s shelter home.

The high court observed that there appears to be no legal or otherwise impediment for the court in approving or stopping the investigation officer from seeking the custody of Zahra from the Darul Aman in Lahore and her production before the trial court in Karachi for the purpose of her shifting to the shelter home as the case may be to be decided by the trial court seized with the matter at the time of her production before it.

Zahra’s father had lodged a case against the alleged spouse of his daughter under the kidnapping and prevention of trafficking in persons act. The petitioner had again approached the high court for the custody of his daughter following a second medical board’s report that suggested that Zahra was minor and aged between 15 and 16 years.

The case took a dramatic turn on July 19 when Zahra finding it hard to live with her husband with whom she had been residing for the last three months and wary of purported threats by her parents filed an application before the judicial magistrate in Lahore for her lodgment in a Darul Aman in Lahore, saying she had no space to live.

The counsel for Zahra’s father in view of such developments requested the court to shift her custody from the Darul Aman in Lahore to any shelter home or child institute/home in Karachi, where the case was pending an investigation for further proceedings in accordance with the law.

The counsel for Zahra’s spouse opposed the request with regard to the transfer of her custody from Lahore and submitted that the high court had no jurisdiction to pass such an order and that any such order was likely to prejudice the right of his client on merits in the case.

The investigation officer submitted that the Sindh home department had written a letter to the home department of Punjab, requesting the recovery of the abductee. He submitted that he would proceed to Lahore soon as necessary permission from the Punjab government was granted to seek the custody of the girl and produce her before the court seized with matter and/or lodge her in a Darul Aman, Karachi, so that the proceedings arising out of the FIR could come to a logical conclusion as per the law.

On a request of Zaheer Ahmed’s counsel with regard to the freezing of the bank accounts of his family members, the court asked the parties concerned to approach the trial court. The court further observed that observations made in the court order were not meant to prejudice the case of either party on merits before the trial court.

‘Husband’ gets bail

A court on Thursday granted interim pre-arrest bail to Zaheer Ahmed, purported husband of Dua Zahra, and his brother in a case pertaining to the kidnapping of the teenage girl from Karachi and solemnising her underage marriage in Punjab.

Ahmed faces charges of kidnapping the underage girl from Karachi and contracting the illegal child marriage with her in Lahore. His brother, mother and over a dozen other relatives, as well as cleric Hafiz Ghulam Mustafa, who solemnised the marriage, and two eyewitnesses to it have been accused of aiding and abetting the alleged crime. Mustafa, and Asghar Ali, one of the two witnesses, are in judicial custody.

Additional District and Sessions Judge IX (East) Rajesh Chandar Rajput granted interim bail to Zahra’s husband and his brother Shabbir until July 26 against a surety of Rs100,000 each. Ahmed obtained protective bail from the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) Multan bench to evade his arrest by the police who are on the hunt for him and other suspects before travelling to Karachi.

The applicants’ lawyer, Aamir Riyaz, argued that his clients were willing to join the investigation into the case but apprehended their arrests at the hands of police. He pleaded with the judge to grant them pre-arrest interim bail to enable them to join the probe. The judge, while approving the bail plea, directed the accused to appear before the investigating officer of the case.

A day ago, a judicial magistrate had directed the police to submit the final charge sheet in the case by the next date of hearing slated for August 1. The IO, DSP Shaukat Shahani moved an application stating that a police team had been in Punjab carrying out raids to arrest Zaheer Ahmed and other fleeing suspects. Therefore, he requested 10-day time to conclude the investigation into the case and submit the final charge sheet.