KARACHI: Anjali Kumari Meghwar, who was named Salma after she was said to have converted to Islam, was not allowed to live with her husband by the Sindh High Court for the controversy over her age, it emerged on Friday when the final order on the petitions of her father and mother-in-law was issued to the press.
A division bench headed by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah had on Wednesday disposed of the petitions of Anjali’s father, Kundandas Meghwar, against her forced conversion and her mother-in-law, Mai Bashiran, who sought quashment of the kidnapping case against her son.
Almost all major newspapers had initially reported on Thursday that the division bench had dismissed the petition of Anjali’s father against her “forced conversion” and “forced marriage” and that she was allowed to live with her husband.
Also read: Petition against forced conversion dismissed
The reports sparked a wave of criticism and the deputy speaker of the provincial assembly criticised the judiciary, declaring that the provincial government would adopt a legal course in the backdrop of the SHC order.
However, the SHC on Friday cleared the air and issued two orders of the division bench passed in the two petitions.
The first order was passed after the first session of the hearing on the morning of Wednesday when the bench heard the counsel for the two parties. The bench, with the consent of the two sides, ordered production of Anjali at 1pm for meeting her parents and husband before she recorded her statement.
The bench also said in its first order that “and if she [Anjali] wishes to go with her parents she would be allowed and in case she wishes to go with the Respondent No. 8 Riaz Ahmed Siyal son of Muhammad Baksh Anwar Siyal, she would accordingly be allowed”.
Later, Anjali was produced in court accordingly and further proceedings were held at Justice Shah’s chamber where the investigation officer of the kidnapping case against her husband recorded her statement.
According to the bench’s second order, which was issued to the press on Friday, counsel for Anjali’s father pointed out that the girl was only 12 and a half years old and a case under Sections 3 and 4 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2014 stands registered and therefore she could not be allowed to go with her husband.
The second and final order said: “Consequently, we asked the investigation officer to disclose as to whether her age has been determined by the medical board, the investigation officer submitted that according to the report her age is between 14 to 15 years. Under these circumstances, we asked Mst Anjali whether she wants to accompany her parents but she refused and stated that she wants to go with her husband, however, keeping in view that there are three versions regarding age of Mst Anjali i.e 12 ½ years as per her father, 14 to 15 years as per medical report and 18 years as per her own statement, therefore, she cannot be allowed to go with her husband unless her age is determined, otherwise, it would frustrate the very purpose of Child Marriages Restraint Act XV of 2014.”
The bench also observed in its second order: “Since Mst Anjali Bai (Muslim name Mst Salma) is not willing to go back with her parents, therefore, we while sending her back to Pannah Shelter Home leave it for the prosecution to prove her actual age before the court where a case is pending against the Respondent No. 8 Riaz Ahmed Siyal under Section 3 and 4 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act.”
Anjali’s father had asked the court to declare that Anjali was an underage person and no statement under Section 164 of the criminal procedure code could be recorded at this stage or if her statement was necessary then a judicial magistrate in Karachi might be authorised to record her statement.
The petitioner father said that her daughter was 12 years old and she was abducted and forced to convert to Islam. However, the young girl told the judges that she embraced Islam and married Riaz Siyal of her own volition.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2015