LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Friday handed over a 14-year-old Christian girl to her parents after having her recovered from a Muslim family where she had been working as a domestic worker for four years.
Nasira Bibi of Sargodha had filed a habeas corpus petition pleading that the family of the respondent, Azhar Iqbal, had detained her daughter, Muskaan, and were not allowing the mother to see her daughter.
In compliance with the court order, the respondent and his wife presented the girl during Friday’s proceedings.
Representing the respondent, Advocate Rana Shaukat Ali told the court that the girl had embraced Islam of her own free will and she could not be handed over to her Christian parents.
He pointed out that a local judicial magistrate had granted the custody of the girl to the respondent when she refused to go with her parents.
He said the petitioner had been blackmailing the respondent and minting money from his wife for allowing the girl to continue work at their home.
The counsel said the girl did not want to live with her parents.
Assisting the court as amicus curie, Advocate Sheraz Zaka stated that a child below 15 years of age could not be employed as a domestic worker as enumerated in Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019. He further stated that a child was presumed to have her/his father’s religion, as laid down in several judgements of superior courts. He said the employer could not keep the child in unlawful custody.
Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh also observed that a child below 15 years of age could not be employed in domestic household work under sections 3 and 31 of Punjab Domestic Workers Act 2019. The judge disposed of the petition and handed over the girl to her parents being lawful guardians.
The judge also observed that keeping a child away from her parents and not allowing her to meet her parents on the pretext that she embraced Islam was against fundamental rights.
Published in Dawn, August 3rd, 2019