A woman of Pakistani origin, currently residing in Canada has won a 17-year legal battle against Punjab University (PU), the BBC reported on Tuesday.

In its judgement, the Lahore High Court ordered the university to pay Rs800,000 in damages to Wajiha Arooj, 38, who had sued the university for damaging her reputation.

Arooj had sought action against the university almost two decades ago when an error brought her disrepute and impacted the course of her life.

While studying for her master's degree in English at the university, Arooj was wrongly marked absent for an exam and told that she had failed.

Wajiha Arooj.—Photo courtesy BBC.
Wajiha Arooj.—Photo courtesy BBC.

Following the error, one university official's suggestion to Arooj's father that he was unaware of his daughter's "activities" triggered gossip and speculation within the university campus and inside her home.

"Even my mother looked at me in a strange way, with doubt in her eyes," Arooj said, speaking to the BBC.

Arooj recalled that while her classmates' taunts made it difficult for her to face them, her family refused to let her attend evening classes at the university.

"Gossiping in the classroom, they would mockingly say that one can go anywhere on the pretext of taking an exam. And they would make sure that I could hear them," Arooj said.

"At one point I was so distressed I even considered committing suicide," she added.

Following the incident, her family, fearing for her reputation, had married her off and Arooj moved to Canada with her husband. Her dreams of finishing her education and starting a career never came true.

However, the trial continued in the Lahore High Court, with the university challenging the case several times.

The court's ruling in Arooj's favour was also challenged, but upheld by an appeals court earlier this month.

PU still holds the right to challenge the appeal court's decision.

A university spokesperson, Khurrum Shehzad, told the BBC that the administration would first look into the court's detailed verdict as it was an old case.

"We will see if the student is in the right, [then] we will definitely comply with court orders. If we feel the university was in the right, we will contest the order on the next available legal platform," the spokesperson said.

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