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ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday accepted an appeal filed by the state to increase the prison sentence imposed on a former additional district and sessions judge (ADSJ) and his wife for torturing a minor domestic employee.

A two-member division bench consisting of Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb also dismissed an appeal filed by former ADSJ Raja Khurram Ali Khan and Maheen Zafar, and increased their sentences from one year to three years in prison, with a fine of Rs500,000.

Khan and Zafar were also convicted under section 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence or giving false information to screen offender) of the Pakistan Penal Code and sentenced to six months in prison.

Zafar was also convicted under PPC sections 337-A(i) and 337-F(i) and ordered to pay the victim, Tayyaba, Rs500,000.

Following the judgement, Khan was taken into custody and shifted to jail. The sentences will run concurrently.

“There can be no compensation in monetary terms for the anguish suffered by the victim, an innocent, helpless and vulnerable child, but we feel that an amount of Rs. 500,000 … may be a reasonable symbolic payment as ‘daman’ to Tayyaba Bibi as compensation for the agony which she had to suffer,” the judgment reads.

The IHC bench observed that the criminal justice system had failed to protect the most vulnerable members of society.

Speaking to the Supreme Court’s suo motu notice in this case, the bench observed that “it appears that only then the system started functioning for this victim of neglect, inhuman treatment and the worst form of abuse”, as a medical board was thereafter constituted and proper investigations ensued.

“Without the publicity on the social and electronic media ultimately leading to the notice taken by the august Supreme Court,” the order stated: “The criminal justice system was not responding to the plight of a battered and helpless child.”

The court added: “This apparent collapse of the criminal justice system for the weak and vulnerable segments of the society and its efficacy for the privileged raise serious questions regarding rule of law.”

The order added that there should be no need for suo motu notice to make the criminal justice system function for a battered child, regardless of the person accused of having committed the offence.

The court also expressed its displeasure with inspector Khalid Mehmood Awan for not fulfilling his obligations by setting the legal process in motion after he received information and photographs of the victim on Dec 12, 2016.

According to the judgement, Mr Awan accompanied the victim to the hospital and it was in his presence that she repeated statements that were recorded at an undisclosed location.

The order said that the victim gave a different statement before Nisha Ishtiak, leading to an FIR.

The court directed the inspector general of Islamabad police to take appropriate action to ensure that professional officers, trained to deal with victims who are children, are entrusted with such cases.

Earlier, a single member bench comprising IHC Justice Aamer Farooq had held the couple guilty of harming, neglecting and abandoning the child employed as a house maid at the judge’s residence in the capital.

On April 17, Justice Farooq had sentenced the couple to a year in prison and fined them Rs50,000 each under section 328-A of the PPC. The couple was not arrested as they had obtained bail a couple of hours after their conviction against the surety of Rs50,000 each.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2018