KARACHI: A judicial magistrate has dismissed an application filed by the family of purportedly converted Christian girl Arzoo pleading to send her to a shelter home from the custody of her Muslim husband.

Police had booked Syed Ali Azhar, the husband of Arzoo, and arrested his brothers, Syed Shariq Ali, Syed Mohsin Ali, and a friend, Danish, for allegedly abducting the underage Christian girl, purportedly forcibly converting her and marrying off to a Muslim man.

The incident of alleged abduction of Arzoo has sparked protests from human rights groups against her alleged forced conversion and underage marriage with a Muslim man.

On Saturday, Arzoo’s father moved an application before Judicial Magistrate (South) Ali Muhammad Dall pleading to send her to a shelter home from the custody of her husband.

He moved an application under Rule 5 of the Child Marriages Restraint Rules read with the Rules 8, 9 and 10 of the Child Marriages Restrain Act, 2013 and Section 100 of the criminal procedure code (CrPC).

The complainant’s counsel, Jibran Nasir, argued that the age of the victim was 13, therefore, the provisions of the Sindh Child Marriages Restrain Act hac also been incorporated in the matter by the investigating agency.

He further argued that the relevant documents of age of the victim such as birth certificate, B-form, educational certificates had already been provided by the complainant to the investigating officer and the same were showing her age as 13 years.

He submitted that the Sindh High Court had also not restrained the trial court from exercising its powers in accordance with the law in its order dated Oct 27.

Advocate Nasir apprehended that further stay of the victim with suspect Azhar would amount to an office punishable under Section 376 (punishment for rape) of the Pakistan Penal Code read with Section 375(v) (rape: with or without her consent when she is under sixteen years of age).

The counsel submitted that the Oct 27 order passed by the SHC was a one-sided order and the same had not been passed in accordance with the actual facts of the matter.

Even otherwise, the orders, which is passed against the relevant provisions of the law, are not binding upon the court in the light of the matters reported by the Supreme Court and the Lahore High Court, the counsel argued.

He stated that Rule 9 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Rules 2016 also empowered the trial court to issue writ for production of the victim in the present matter.

He said that the complainant was not even asking for the custody of the victim, as he had no objection to sending her to a shelter home for the want of DNA testing and other requirements of investigation in the matter.

He pleaded to the court to issue a search warrant for production of the victim Arzoo before the trial court and to send her to the shelter home.

State prosecutor Abdul Rahim Thahim adopted the version of the counsel for the complainant.

The IO of the case, Inspector Shariq Ahmed Siddiqui, stated that the victim had appeared before the SHC and was sent under the protection of the SHO of the Preedy police station in compliance with the SHC’s Oct 27 order.

He said he had called verification of the B-form of the victim, which as per the National Database and Registration Authority was genuine.

After hearing arguments, the judge noted that from the perusal of the material available on record, it appeared that a division bench of the Sindh High Court on Oct 27 had already directed the Preedy SHO to provide protection to the victim and the matter was now fixed before the SHC for Nov 11.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2020

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