The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Friday disposed off a petition seeking transfer of the Tayyaba torture case from the high court to the relevant district court and ruled that the trial of the case will be held in IHC.

Human rights activist and lawyer Asma Jahangir, on behalf of the civil society, had filed two petitions seeking the transfer of the case to a district court and to become a party in the case. However, the court turned down both the applications.

Earlier this month, at the last hearing of the case, the Supreme Court had asked the IHC to consider transferring the matter to another subordinate trial court from the judicial magistrate, or assume its own jurisdiction. The court had also asked the IHC to add charges of slavery and human trafficking to the case.

Ten-year-old Tayyaba was working as a maid in the house of a serving Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Raja Khurram Ali Khan and is said to have been tortured by him and his wife, Maheen Zafar.

The Supreme Court had taken suo moto notice of the matter after reports of it surfaced on social media. A compromise was later reached between the ADSJ and the minor girl's family.

Case history

Tayyaba, who was allegedly tortured by former additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) Raja Khurram Ali Khan and his wife, was rescued from his house in Islamabad with visible wounds on Dec 28, 2016. A First Information Report was registered against him and his wife, Maheen Zafar, on Dec 29, 2016.

On Jan 2, 2017, the ADSJ reached a compromise with Tayyaba’s parents, on the basis of which Zafar secured pre-arrest bail from the court of ADSJ Raja Asif Mehmood the same day. On Jan 3, ADSJ Atta Rabbani had handed over custody of Tayyaba to her parents.

On Jan 4, however, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice of the matter.

The apex court had directed police to investigate the case from every aspect, and on a subsequent hearing on Jan 11, observed that the role of Chakwal-based lawyer Raja Zahoor Hassan — who began practice in Islamabad a couple of years ago — was of key interest with regard to the "illegitimate" compromise first reached between the suspects and the child’s family.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar had remarked during proceedings that there was no doubt that a criminal act had been committed in the Tayyaba case.

The court had also directed the police to investigate how the compromise deed was prepared, as well as matters related to internal trafficking of child labour.

In its report, however, the police had focused only on the child’s abuse and the possible involvement of the suspects. On Jan 26, the SC had expressed displeasure with the way the police investigated the case.

The case was referred back to the IHC by the Supreme Court for further deliberations.

On Feb 10, in a hearing in the IHC on the matter, Tayyaba's father had submitted an affidavit to a local court claiming her employers did not torture her, bringing the case back to where it was at the start of the year.

This was the second time Tayyaba's father made the claim.

Mohammad Azam, the child’s father, had dismissed media reports about Tayyaba’s abuse in the affidavit, saying that after looking into the matter he had concluded that both Khan and his wife were innocent.

On Feb 20, Maheen Zafar had submitted a written request to the interior ministry stating that the leader of a "mafia" is conspiring against her and her husband. "The mafia maligned Raja Khurram Ali Khan with fabricated stories," the request stated, adding that negative propaganda was created via social media reports of Tayyaba's torture.

After this, on Feb 26, the court adjourned the indictment of Khan and his wife till March 25.

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