Tayyaba torture case: Supreme Court sets aside increased sentence of former judge, wife

Updated January 10, 2020

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In this Jan 6, 2017, file photo, Maheen Zafar, the wife of sessions judge Raja Khurram Ali is escorted from the Supreme Court by her brother in Islamabad. — AP/File
In this Jan 6, 2017, file photo, Maheen Zafar, the wife of sessions judge Raja Khurram Ali is escorted from the Supreme Court by her brother in Islamabad. — AP/File

The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the extended three-year sentence against former additional district and sessions judge Raja Khurram Ali Khan and his wife Maheen Zafar — for torturing a minor girl employed as domestic help in Islamabad — maintaining the one year sentence handed down by the Islamabad High Court in April 2018.

Nine months ago, in May 2019, the apex court had reserved its judgement on appeals filed by the judge and his wife.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam had taken up appeals filed by Khan and his wife, who had first been sentenced to a year in jail in April 2018 for keeping the then 10-year-old Tayyaba in wrongful confinement, burning her hand over a missing broom, beating her with a ladle, detaining her in a storeroom, and threatening her of "dire consequences".

In June 2018, when both convicts appealed against the sentence, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had increased their jail time from one year to three years, with a Rs500,000 fine.

In the verdict announced today, the apex court set aside the three year sentence and maintained the earlier one year jail term for the convicts.

The written judgement announced in an open court today, authored by Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Yayha Afridi, presented a similar judgement on both the convicts' appeals. The court said that the conviction and initial sentence awarded to the convicts will be maintained.

"While maintaining her conviction under Section 328-A PPC, the sentence enhanced from one year simple imprisonment to that of three years by the Division Bench of the High Court in its judgement dated 11.06.2018 is set aside," the judgement stated, while reffering to Zafar's case.

However, the verdict stated that the quantum of the sentence (duration of the punishment) for the offence under Section 328-A of the Pakistan Penal Code is the subject matter of another appeal pending before the court and will be decided accordingly.

Under Section 328-A of PPC, "whoever willfully assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons or does an act of omission or commission, that results in or has, potential to harm or injure the child by causing physical or psychological injury to him shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year and may extend up to three years, or with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five thousand rupees and may extend up to fifty-thousand rupees, or with both".

The case of Tayyaba, a young domestic worker employed in the convicts' household, first came to light after photos of the tortured child began circulating on social media in 2016. She was rescued from their residence with visible wounds on December 28, 2016, and a first information report was filed against her employers a day later.

Although Khan had reached a compromise with Tayyaba's parents on January 2, 2017, the SC took suo motu notice of the matter two days later with the strict warning that "no agreements can be reached in matters concerning fundamental human rights".