SHC rules Dua Zehra can't be on her own in Lahore, police empowered to move her to Karachi

Published July 21, 2022
This file photo shows Dua Zehra being taken to a court by Karachi police. — DawnNewsTV
This file photo shows Dua Zehra being taken to a court by Karachi police. — DawnNewsTV

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Thursday ruled that Dua Zehra — a Karachi girl who was reported kidnapped in April and later discovered to have purportedly 'eloped' in Punjab — could not be permitted to be on her own in Lahore till the case was disposed of.

The court also ruled that police were empowered to move Dua from Lahore to Karachi to attend proceedings at trial court.

Earlier this week, Dua had approached a Lahore court requesting to be sent to Darul Aman, citing "constant threats" from her parents while also underlining that she was "not on good terms" with Zaheer Ahmed, the person said to have contracted a marriage with her.

Hearing a petition filed by Dua's father on Thursday, Mehdi Ali Kazmi, the SHC noted that the petitioner had urged the court to shift the girl to any shelter home in Karachi, where the case was pending investigation.

The written verdict, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, noted that the investigating officer (IO) in the case had stated that efforts for Dua's recovery and shifting her from Lahore to Karachi were already afoot and "as soon as necessary permission is granted, he shall proceed to Lahore to seek custody of the abductee and produce her before the court seized ... and/or lodge her in Darul Aman, Karachi [...]."

It noted that it was clear that Dua was "no more on good terms" with her purported husband and did not want to live with him.

"Further, she has no place in Lahore to take shelter in for the time being and decide about [the] future," it said.

The verdict added that it was obvious she was "ostensibly afraid of parents" and also not interested in residing with them.

"In any case, her living in Lahore does not seem to be in her benefit from any angle either, particularly after her separation from her husband and is likely to cause hindrance in smooth proceedings of the case," it said.

It noted that Dua's parents, her natural guardians, the case and the trial court were all located in Karachi.

"She is still a minor and a main witness in the case [and] is required to participate in its proceedings. Hence, she cannot be permitted to be on her own in Lahore till she attains majority and the case is finally disposed of.

"In such facts and circumstances, there appears to be no legal or otherwise impediment for this court in approving, and/or stopping the IO from performing his official duty and to seek, shifting of her custody from Darul Aman Lahore and her production before the trial court for the purpose of disposal or otherwise of the case and her lodgment in Panah Shelter Home, Darul Aman, Karachi or Shelter Home for Destitute and Orphan Children Sindh Karachi, as the case may be, to be decided by the court seized with the matter at the time of her production before it," the order stated.

Zaheer, his brother get bail

Meanwhile, a local court in Karachi granted an interim pre-arrest bail to Zaheer and his brother — booked for allegedly kidnapping Dua.

Both the absconding brothers, Zaheer and Shabbir, had moved applications before the Additional District and Sessions’ Judge (East) Rajesh Chandar Rajput to seek pre-arrest bail.

The judge granted interim bail before arrest to both the suspects subject to furnishing a surety of Rs100,000 each.

The judge also directed them to join the investigation and fixed July 26 for confirmation or otherwise of their interim bail.

Earlier today, the lawyer for Dua's parents, social activist Jibran Nasir, had said that the Sindh attorney general and the prosecutor general have supported the family's stance that the girl should be brought to Karachi so they could provide for her well-being.

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 home 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 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.

Later, Kazmi challenged the verdict in the SC, which had, in turn, asked him to approach the relevant forums for the constitution of a medical board. Subsequently, a judicial magistrate in Karachi ordered the constitution of another board to determine Dua's age.

On July 4, the medical board concluded that Dua was between 15 to 16 years of age. In the report, the medical board concluded that consensus opinion was that Dua's overall age was between 15-16 years, nearer to 15 based on physical examination and dentition.

In a dramatic turn, police on July 16 informed a sessions court in Karachi that 24 persons, including Zaheer, had been found involved in abducting her from Karachi and shifting her to Punjab, where they solemnised the illegal child marriage.

Following this, Dua approached a Lahore court on July 19 requesting to be sent to Darul Aman, citing “constant threats” from her parents while also underlining that she was “not on good terms” with Zaheer. The court accepted her application and she was shifted to the shelter home.

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