SC orders Sindh govt to pay Rs1 million as compensation for Amal Umer's death

Updated 11 Feb 2020

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Amal Umer died after being shot in an 'encounter' between police and suspected robbers. — Beenish Umer/File
Amal Umer died after being shot in an 'encounter' between police and suspected robbers. — Beenish Umer/File

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Tuesday wrapped up the suo motu case on Amal Umar's death and ordered the Sindh government to pay Rs500,000 to the child's family while also donating an additional Rs500,000 to the Rah-e-Amal Trust established by the victim's parents.

A three-judge Supreme Court bench being headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah were hearing a suo motu case regarding 10-year-old Amal's death.

The Sindh government had initially offered to pay Rs500,000 as compensation to Amal's parents, but the top court ordered the authorities to pay an additional amount of Rs500,000 to the trust established in the deceased's name.

"The amount of the compensation money needs to be reasonable," the chief justice observed, despite Sindh Additional Advocate General Sibtain Mahmood's argument that there were no legal provisions for the government to grant such a huge compensation.

“This is the highest ever compensation money being paid to the victim family on the orders of the apex court,” Faisal Siddiqui, counsel for Amal's parents, told Dawn.

The court also ruled that the parents of the deceased will be entitled to seek further compensation or remedy for the negligence on part of the police in accordance with the law. Referring to the recommendations of the Sindh Health Care Commission, the parents were also allowed to utilise the report to seek further relief through any other proceedings under the law through the relevant forums.

The order also noted that the Sindh police have dismissed two police officers who were responsible for the shooting of the 10-year-old and that criminal cases pertaining to the incident were pending in relevant courts.

The parents of Amal, if they wish, can also join such proceedings so that the officials involved in the crime be dealt with in accordance with law.

Furthermore, the court ordered that the recommendations of the special committee, constituted by the Supreme Court in the case, be complied with by all relevant authorities.

During the proceedings, Justice Ahmed said that the "policemen did not know where to shoot and where not to shoot".

"Police mean to shoot one person but end up targetting another," he said and added that "a police official should not have a big gun" but a 9mm pistol.

He further said: "Only officers can evoke respect for police, a constable can't do that. A constable only takes orders."

"Some suitable standard operating procedures, system of intelligence gathering and proper weapons training should be in place, since the lives of the people cannot be put in risk unduly," observed Justice Ahsan.

Former chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar in 2018 had taken a suo motu notice of the killing of 10-year-old Amal, who was shot dead in August 2018 during an encounter between police and suspected robbers in Karachi.

Read: How the system failed us

Amal's death and aftermath

After she was shot, Amal's parents, who were in the car with her, took her to National Medical Centre (NMC), but the hospital told the injured girl's parents to take her to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre or Aga Khan Hospital. NMC also refused to arrange an ambulance for Amal, who had suffered a head wound. The 10-year-old passed away after being denied medical treatment.

Her death caused an uproar across the country and questions were raised over so-called police 'encounters' and refusal by hospitals to provide medical care.

In the aftermath of her death, the Sindh cabinet last year approved the Sindh Injured Persons Compulsory Medical Treatment (Amal Umer) Act 2019, under which hospitals are bound to provide immediate treatment to any injured person without "complying with medico-legal formalities".

The law makes it compulsory for hospitals, both private and government, to provide treatment to any injured person "without any delay, on a priority basis, without complying with medico-legal formalities or demanding payment prior to the administering of compulsory medical treatment".

Under the law, police will not be allowed to "interrupt or interfere" until the person is deemed out of danger. Doctors will also not be bound to obtain consent of relatives while providing compulsory treatment.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had also announced that the provincial government will set up a fund for the treatment of injured people.

The Sindh government had also informed the top court in an earlier hearing, that payment of compensation to Amal's family had been approved in line with the law. Amal's family, however, said that accepting compensation would be "shameful" for them.

Meanwhile, the Sindh police had promised the top court that regular training sessions will be arranged for police officers in order to avoid such incidents in the future.