A Karachi court on Saturday ordered the police to continue investigation to determine the age of Dua Zehra — the girl who went missing from Karachi in April and was recovered from Punjab earlier this month.
Dua has in previous court hearings said she is 18 years of age, and a medical test ordered by the Sindh High Court found she was 17. The SHC later ruled that Dua, who claims she had contracted marriage of her own accord, was free to decide her fate.
Subsequently, her father, Mehdi Kazmi, challenged the SHC verdict in the Supreme Court where his petition was disposed of as "it didn't fall in the jurisdiction" of the apex court. In that hearing, Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar asked the petitioner if they had challenged Dua's medical report. The three-member bench had further told Kazmi to approach the relevant forums for the formation of a medical board to determine his daughter's age.
During the hearing at the Court of Judicial Magistrate East today, the petitioner and his counsel, Jibran Nasir, contended that the police challan focused on two aspects: Dua's age and her statement.
In the police challan, the teenager's age is stated to be 17 years, while her father says she is 14 and has Nadra documents to prove it.
Nasir told the court that they had requested the SC to move Dua to a shelter home and re-determine her age through a medical board. He then presented the top court's order to the judicial magistrate in which it had said that the petitioner had the right to challenge the ossification report.
"The SC also said that the SHC's order would not become a hindrance in this procedure," he said.
He also pointed out that the police had declared the case "C-class" without even determining her age and Zaheer — the man Dua was said to have contracted marriage with, Zaheer Ahmad, had not been arrested yet.
At one point during the hearing, the judicial magistrate asked the plaintiff's lawyer why they hadn't challenged Dua's statements in court to which Nasir replied that two separate statements had been recorded by the teenager.
"In Lahore, Dua was forced to lodge a fake request against her father and cousin accusing them of threatening her and Zaheer. But she never mentioned any of this in front of the judicial magistrate," he said.
"Even in the high court, nothing was said about the father and cousin," he added, arguing that the statement was not "independent".
Subsequently, the judicial magistrate returned the case challan to the police, directing it to further investigate it and collect evidence regarding the true age of Dua through a medical board.
In a written order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the judicial magistrate said: "After hearing the arguments of the counsel for the complainant and DPP for the state and perusing the record, I'm of the considered view that the age of the alleged abductee is material question to determine whether she was enticed to leave the house of her father or otherwise she left the house on her free consent (to which she was old enough to take the decision), therefore application for further investigation is allowed."
Later, Nasir tweeted that their right to challenge the teenager's age certificate — which was presented before High Court pursuant to which Dua was set at liberty — had been honoured.
"The same report was prepared by one medical expert and not a medical board," he added.
'Zaheer can't be charged for kidnapping'
Separately, in a media talk outside court, the investigating officer in the case said that the police had no grounds to charge Zaheer with kidnapping and had taken him into protective custody.
"We have investigated the case from every angle and found out that the girl went with her own free will," he said. "Dua and Zaheer became friends on the online game PUBG and had known each other for three years. They decided to get married there."
The officer added that they had obtained a copy of the SC order and would further study the case.
On April 16, Dua's parents filed a first information report alleging that their daughter had been kidnapped when she left the house to dispose of some trash. The incident had provoked an outcry, especially on social media, which had prompted authorities to take notice.
After nearly 10 days, on April 26, the teenage girl was recovered from Okara. In a video statement that day, Dua had said that she wasn't kidnapped and had married Zaheer of her "free will".
She had said that she had left her house of her own accord. "I have married out of free will. No one forced me. I'm happy with my husband here. For God's sake, don't bother me," she had stated.
Dua had also claimed that her parents were lying about her age.
Subsequently, she and Zaheer approached a Lahore district and sessions court and filed a petition against Dua's father and cousin.
Meanwhile, the police had also filed a plea in court demanding that Dua be sent to Darul Aman. However, the magistrate rejected the request and had allowed the teenager "to go wherever she wanted to".
On the other hand, 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 had also approached the SHC in May with a plea against the Punjab's court's orders. Kazmi had stated in the petition that as per her educational, birth certificates and other records, Dua’s age was 13 and under the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013 it was illegal to marry a minor.
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 June 6, the SHC had ordered an ossification to determine Dua's age. She was also sent to a shelter home for the time being after she refused to meet her parents.
Two days later, the court ruled that the teenager was at liberty to decide who she wanted to live with. During the hearing, the IO filed his report along with age certificate issued by the office of the police surgeon which stated that as per the opinion of doctors and the Civil Hospital’s department of radiology, the bone age of the alleged abductee was between 16 and 17 years of age.
In its order, the bench said the petition had served its purpose as it was only to the extent of the whereabouts of the alleged minor/abductee.