Mukhtar Mai sits in her home in the village of Meerwal, near Multan in this March 18, 2005 file photograph. – Reuters (File Photo)

ISLAMABAD: Mukhtar Mai filed a review petition in the Supreme Court on Thursday against acquittal of persons who had raped her about nine years ago.

On April 21, the Supreme Court rejected, by a majority of two to one, appeals of Mukhtar Mai against acquittal of her tormentors and for enhancement of their sentence. However, the court ordered that Abdul Khaliq, one of the 14 accused in the case, would remain in prison to serve life sentence.

The petition filed by Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan on behalf of Mukhtar Mai sought the constitution of a larger bench, instead of a three-judge bench which had heard her appeals and upheld the March 3, 2005, judgment of the Multan bench of Lahore High Court.

In August 2002, an ATC had sentenced six men to death -- four for raping Mukhtar Mai on June 22, 2002, on the orders of a punchayat and two for being part of that jirga. The remaining eight were released.

Later the LHC's Multan bench on separate appeals acquitted five of them and converted the death sentence of Abdul Khaliq to life imprisonment.

The jirga had been called to seek punishment for Shakoor, then 12-year-old brother of Mukhtar Mai. It suggested that Shakoor should marry the girl with whom he was accused of having an affair and Mukhtar Mai be married to a man of the Mastoi tribe. But the Mastois rejected it and insisted that the offence of adultery should be settled with adultery.

Mukhtar Mai was called by the council to apologise for the conduct of her brother who had already been sodomised by the Mastois. She was allegedly dragged to a nearby hut and raped by four men.

The incident was widely condemned in the country and abroad.

In its detailed judgment, the Supreme Court ordered that all accused who had been arrested because of its July 28, 2005, directives be released forthwith, but ruled that Abdul Khaliq be released only after completing his sentence.

In her review plea, Mukhtar Mai said the apex court verdict was a great miscarriage of justice because it stemmed from misreading and non-reading of material evidence on file.

“The judgment under review is also not sustainable in law and, therefore, is liable to be recalled in the interest of justice. The court by dismissing the appeals adopted and set up a new precedent in rape cases that goes contrary to longstanding settled law, something that itself needs to be reviewed and corrected,” she argued.

Referring to different observations and conclusions of the judges while rejecting the appeals, the petition said the observations would have a strong bearing on the applicable principles of law in criminal cases.

“Therefore, the review petition should be referred to a larger bench of the apex court to decide the issue for safe administration on justice. Besides, this has also been a longstanding practice of the Supreme Court to refer matters of such importance involving serious questions of law to a larger bench to decide issues,” the petitioner said.

The petition cited six instances where the apex court constituted larger benches to hear review petitions when earlier the main petitions were heard by smaller benches.