A magisterial court on Tuesday ordered the investigation officer (IO) to produce Dua Zahra before it today (Wednesday).
Dua, a teenage girl who went missing from her Karachi residence in April and later found to have contracted a freewill marriage with a Lahore-based man, was brought back to her hometown on Sunday after a Lahore magistrate allowed the Sindh police to shift her from a Darul Aman (shelter home) in Lahore to Karachi so that she could be produced before the relevant court.
On Tuesday, District East Judicial Magistrate Aftab Ahmed Bughio directed the IO to ensure that the girl was accompanied by a child protection officer during her appearance before the court and no person from either side would get a chance to meet her, nor any person other than the lawyers representing the parties would be allowed in the courtroom. The IO was further told to provide complete security to the girl.
Zaheer Ahmed, Dua’s purported husband, through his lawyer Aamir Riyaz filed an application under the Section 17(2) of the Sindh Child Protection Authority (Amendment) Act 2021 and Section 3 of the Juvenile Justice System Act 2018, seeking directives for the authorities concerned to produce her before the court.
The lawyer argued that whenever the custody of a minor was obtained by a child protection officer, it was incumbent upon him/her to produce the child before the relevant magistrate within 24 hours of the custody. The purpose of the production was to safeguard the rights of the minor, he added.
On the other hand, Advocate Zaheer Hussain, the counsel for Dua’s parents, stated that the aforementioned section of the Child Protection Act was not attracted in cases where a child protection authority had taken the custody of a minor on a court order. The section was applicable when the custody was taken by the authority through some other mode, such as finding an abandoned child or an application filed before a child protection officer, he contended.
The counsel claimed that the application had been filed with mala fide intentions and was liable to be dismissed.
After hearing the parties, the magistrate opined that there was a legal question about whether the minor shifted from a Darul Aman in Lahore to a Karachi child protection centre in compliance with the orders of the courts having jurisdiction was to be produced before the trial court within a specified time or may be produced when the matter was fixed for hearing.
He recalled that on July 22, the court had passed an order on the application of the girl’s mother and directed the IO to produce the girl on August 1 when a case regarding the minor’s alleged abduction and underage marriage was fixed for the submission of the charge sheet.
Citing the Rule 10 of the Child Protection Act, he said the first part of the rule mandated that the child be immediately produced before the court unless there was some reason for not doing so and there seemed no reason as to why the child should not produced before the court.
Rejecting the contention of the complainant’s lawyer, Magistrate Bughio ruled, “I’m of the considered opinion that immediate production of minor is necessary as provided under Section 17 (2) and rule 10 of the Child Marriage Testraint Rules 2016. This application is being allowed.”
Separately, a sessions court extended until August 1 the interim pre-arrest bail granted to Zaheer Ahmed, purported husband of Dua, 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.
Ahmed and his brother Shabbir turned up before Additional District and Sessions Judge VII (East) Ilyas under police escort. The court extended their interim bail until August 1 with a direction for the complainant’s lawyer, the state prosecutor and defence counsel to forward their arguments on the confirmation of their bail or otherwise on the next date of hearing.
On July 21, Dua’s alleged husband and his brother were granted interim bail until July 26 subject to the submission of a surety of Rs100,000 each.