Dua Zehra presented before medical board for proper age assessment: father's lawyer

Published July 2, 2022
Dua Zehra is seen on her arrival at court. — DawnNewsTV
Dua Zehra is seen on her arrival at court. — DawnNewsTV

Dua Zehra, the girl who was reported missing from Karachi on April 16 and was recovered from Punjab on June 5, has been presented before a medical board constituted to determine her age, her father's counsel Jibran Nasir said on Saturday.

Dua has in previous court hearings said she is 18 years of age, and a medical test ordered by the Sindh High Court (SHC) found she was 17. The SHC later ruled that Dua, who claims she had contracted a 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, with it asking the petitioners whether 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.

Last week, a judicial magistrate had ordered the police to continue investigation to determine Dua's age, following which a 10-member medical board was constituted.

The first meeting of the special medical board to ascertain Dua's age was held earlier this week. However, she did not appear before it. The board asked the parents to provide relevant documents pertaining to her birth and school certificates.

In a series of tweets today, Jibran Nasir, who is representing Dua's father in the case, said the medical report presented in the SHC earlier was in "violation of standard practices and procedures" because it was prepared by only one doctor.

"Please note all offences in this case are age-specific, he said. "As per law, during trial when considering evidence, a medical report cannot override documentary proof such as Nadra (National Database and Registration Authority) certificates which have been issued prior to the date of crime. However, since a flawed medical report was produced in this case it was imperative to challenge it," he added.

Court rejects Dua's father's plea

Separately, a district and sessions court in Karachi rejected on Friday a plea filed by Dua's father, seeking the replacement of the lead investigator in the case.

Mehdi Kazmi, through his lawyer, had filed an application on June 28 expressing reservations over the present investigation officer (IO) and argued that apparently, he was investigating the matter in an allegedly biased manner.

The counsel had argued that the applicant and his family members had no faith in the IO and pleaded his removal from the investigation and appoint an "honest and competent" IO.

In a written order issued on Friday, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, Additional District and Sessions Judge Mohammad Mehboob Awan noted that the Sindh High Court (SHC) had ordered a medical test to determine Dua's age.

In an order issued on June 8, the SHC had stated that Dua is "at liberty to decide as to whom she intends to reside [with] and go along".

Judge Awan further noted that Dua's father had filed an application challenging the verdict in the Supreme Court, which was subsequently dismissed.

He also referred to the order of a judicial magistrate that stated that Dua's age was a "material question to determine whether she was enticed to leave the house of her father ... or she left the house of her free consent". The magistrate had also ordered the formation of a medical board to determine the girl's age, he noted.

The judge said he had no doubt that the judicial magistrate had not yet passed an order on a 'C' class report submitted by the investigation officer. A 'C' class report is a final report submitted by an IO in a case when there is insufficient evidence or the offence is non-cognisable.

"I am confident that the controversy still hangs on the opinion of the medical board, which has reportedly initiated its proceedings. The prayer of the applicant (Dua's father) is not found justified for the reasons that the discord regarding the age of the alleged abductee is pending with the medical board and the IO has no conceivable interference with the record/opinion of the medical board rendered in due course of time.

"Thus, the instant applicant is bereft of merits at this stage and is accordingly dismissed," the judge wrote.

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 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 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 an 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.

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