KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Monday directed the provincial authorities to appoint a female representative to ensure the welfare of underage Christian girl Arzoo, who reportedly converted to Islam and contracted a free-will marriage, at a shelter home.
While disposing of the girl’s petition along with other applications, a two-judge bench headed by Justice K.K. Agha sent 13-year-old Arzoo Raja back to Panah shelter home since she again refused to go with her parents.
At the outset of the hearing, the investigating officer (IO) of the case placed before the bench a copy of the charge sheet to be filed before a judicial magistrate later.
However, the bench directed the police to use their best efforts to trace out absconders and bring them to justice.
The petitioner girl once again refused to return to her parents and the bench observed that since she was only 13-14-years old and her marriage was not legally valid, she could not go with her purported husband.
The underage girl once again refuses to go with her parents
The bench said that due to her age and gender, the home secretary would appoint a designated female representative from the social welfare department to visit the shelter home at least once a week to ensure her welfare in terms of physical and mental well-being, health, schooling and any other matter of concern.
During her stay at the shelter home, the petitioner might ponder over her life choices and would be allowed to meet those who she agreed to meet excluding her alleged husband and his relatives, it added.
The petitioner’s lawyer again argued that the marriage was legal under the federal law about marriages, but the bench observed that this issue could be taken up at another time and at an appropriate forum.
Meanwhile, the same bench also sent another underage girl, Lubna Bibi who contracted a free-will marriage, to a shelter home.
The girl had approached the SHC stating that she contracted marriage with Fazal Rashid and sought protection.
A medical board informed the bench that the petitioner was between 16 and 17 years of age.
The bench observed that it was not possible for the petitioner to enter into any marriage under the Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013 and directed the IO of Saeedabad police station to carry out an inquiry as to whether an offence was made out due to violation of relevant law.
Charge sheet in Arzoo case to be filed today
The IO, Inspector Shariq Ahmed Siddiqui, filed a charge sheet in the Arzoo case with the special public prosecutor for its scrutiny.
The charge sheet will be submitted before Judicial Magistrate (South) Mohammad Ali Dall on Tuesday (today).
The IO nominated cleric Qazi Abdul Rasool, Junaid Ali Siddiqui and Mehmood Hassan as accused for facilitating and solemnizing the underage marriage of Arzoo Raja with Syed Ali Azhar.
They have already obtained an interim pre-arrest bail to avoid their arrest in the present case.
The IO showed Justice of Peace Azharuddin, Mohammad Danish and Habib as absconders in red ink, which means that incriminating evidence was available against them, but they were still at large. They will be prosecuted once they are arrested.
However, the IO did not charge-sheet Ali Azhar’s two brothers — Syed Mohsin Ali and Syed Shariq Ali — and his friend Danish due to lack of evidence against them.
The alleged prime suspect, Syed Ali Azhar, is currently in judicial custody, while his brothers and a friend are on post-arrest bail.
In the charge sheet, the IO listed eight people as witnesses of the prosecution. He removed Section 364-A (kidnapping or abducting a person under the age of fourteen) and replaced the same with Section 375 (iv) which pertains to rape.
Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2020