Supreme Court sees no honour in honour killings

Published September 5, 2020
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Isa had taken up the jail appeal of Mohammad Abbas against the Sept 8, 2015 verdict of the Lahore High Court in the murder case of his wife, Saima Bibi. — Photo courtesy Supreme Court website/File
A two-judge bench headed by Justice Isa had taken up the jail appeal of Mohammad Abbas against the Sept 8, 2015 verdict of the Lahore High Court in the murder case of his wife, Saima Bibi. — Photo courtesy Supreme Court website/File

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday observed that the killing of women in the name of honour had never been an honourable practice, saying such murders should not be categorised as honour killings.

“It will help deter such killings if the term ‘Ghairat’ is not used to describe them,” observed Justice Qazi Faez Isa in a judgement he authored while hearing a jail petition.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Isa had taken up the jail appeal of Mohammad Abbas against the Sept 8, 2015 verdict of the Lahore High Court in the murder case of his wife, Saima Bibi.

Justice Isa regretted that not enough was being done to discourage crimes against women as extremism and violence have permeated through Pakistani society and it has been brutalised.

Justice Isa says not enough is being done to discourage crime against women

Mohammad Abbas was facing the allegation of killing his wife over suspected infidelity. Saima Bibi was the sister of Mohammad Asghar, the complainant who reported to police that his sister was killed by her husband. The crime was stated to have been committed at 1am on May 17, 2009 and an FIR was registered at the Baraghar police station, Nankana Sahib district.

Mohammad Abbas was tried by the sessions judge of Nankana Sahib who convicted and awarded death sentence to the accused for qatl-i-amd (murder) of his wife. He was also directed to pay compensation of Rs50,000 to the legal heirs of the deceased and in default of the payment he would face six-month simple imprisonment.

The high court, however, reduced the sentence of death to imprisonment for life because the accused had fired only once at the deceased.

The Supreme Court, however, dismissed the jail appeal on the grounds that there was no reason justifying the grant of leave as the trial court determined that the petitioner killed his wife while the high court upheld the conviction though reduced the sentence to life imprisonment.

Referring to honour killing, Justice Isa explained that it was inaccurate to translate Urdu word ‘Ghairat’ into English as ‘honour’, adding that the Urdu word did not have an exact English equivalent.

A more accurate translation of the trait of ‘Ghairat’ would be ‘arrogance’ and the one with such a trait is an ‘arrogant’ person.

Pakistan has one of the highest, if not the highest per capita honour killings in the world and predominantly the victims are women, Justice Isa regretted, adding that by stating that murder was committed on the pretext of ghairat (honour) the murderer hopes to provide some justification for the crime.

It may also elevate the murderer’s social status with those not familiar with what Almighty Allah commands in the Holy Quran, Justice Isa observed.

This is unfortunate, more so because there is no honour in such killings, Justice Isa observed, adding that the parliament was rightly concerned with the prevalence of such killings and enacted legislation to dissuade, if not stop, such crimes.

It did so by ensuring that offenders do not avail of the benefit of section 302(c) PPC, for which the maximum punishment is twenty-five years imprisonment but which does not prescribe a minimum punishment, Justice Isa recalled.

Published in Dawn, September 5th, 2020

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