The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday ordered that Dua Zehra — the teenage girl who went missing from Karachi's Shah Faisal Colony in April — be sent to a shelter home and a medical test be carried out to determine her age.
The order was passed by Justice Junaid Ghaffar after the police presented the teenager and Zaheer Ahmed, the boy she is said to have contracted marriage with, before the court amid tight security a day after they were recovered from Bahawalnagar.
Dua's parents, the Sindh Advocate General, and police officials were among those present in court.
When the teenager entered the courtroom today, her mother tried to embrace her but was stopped by the court police, who said that they didn't have permission to meet the girl.
During the hearing, Dua recorded her statement before the court, claiming that she was 18 years old. "I was not kidnapped. I married Zaheer of my free will and want to live with him," she said.
For his part, the counsel of Mehdi Kazmi, Dua's father, contended that the birth certificate of the girl was present with the court. "They clearly show that she was born on April 27, 2008, which proves that she is 14 years and a few months old," he said.
Meanwhile, the Sindh Advocate General argued that no crime had taken place in the province. "The girl has said that she went of her free will," he pointed out, reiterating that "no crime" occurred in Sindh and that the marriage was contracted in Punjab.
Here, Justice Ghaffar remarked: "This means that the petition regarding her recovery has now become redundant.
"The girl is standing in front of us and is saying that no one abducted her," he added, and subsequently ordered that Dua be sent to a shelter home and a medical test be carried out to determine her age.
Meanwhile, at one point during the proceedings, Dua's parents requested the court to grant them permission to meet her for 10 minutes. However, the teenager refused.
"What can we do when she, herself, has refused," Justice Ghaffar said. "[Her] parents are standing here ... they are worried ... but we have to consider the law."
The girl’s parents lodged a case in Karachi on April 16, alleging that their daughter was kidnapped and forced into child marriage.
Ten days later, Dua appeared on the media along with Zaheer Ahmed and announced they had married in Lahore. She denied that she was kidnapped and alleged that her parents were lying about her age as she was 18 years old.
When she was first taken into custody on April 26, a Lahore court had allowed the teenager "to go wherever she wanted to and be set at liberty from the premises of the court as desired by her to go wherever she wants to".
However, Dua's parents were adamant that their daughter had been kidnapped and said that she had been forced to give the statement.
The teenager's father, later, approached the SHC last month with a plea against the Punjab court's orders. Mehdi stated in the petition that as per her educational documents, birth certificate and other records, Dua’s age was 13 and under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013, it was illegal to marry a minor/underage.
He had asked the court to order a medical examination of his daughter.
In the following days, Karachi police repeatedly failed to produce the teenager in court, earning the judges' ire.
On Sunday, Dua and Ahmad were recovered from Chishtian and brought to Karachi.