KARACHI: On Friday, the Sindh High Court rejected a plea from the father of a Christian teenage girl who allegedly converted to Islam and was allegedly coerced into marriage by a Muslim man. In order to approach a family court to request her custody, the father withdrew the application Arzoo.
Raja Masih, Arzoo parent, moved the SHC to seek review of the Nov 23 order of the court in order to clarify whether or not it bars any competent court having jurisdiction to adjudicate on the custody of the child.
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The plea was disposed of as withdrawn by the two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha after the petitioner claimed that he was able to approach the family court to request custody of his teenage daughter currently residing in a shelter home.
The bench observed that if on the basis of SHC’s order, the family court refused to grant the application, the applicant may again approach SHC for redress of his grievance if it is maintainable under the law.
In terms of the Majority Act, 1875, the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, 2013 and the Guardian and Wards Act, 1890, the applicant contended that Arzoo was 13 and a minor.
He further argued in his application that the bench’s order of Nov 23 was silent as apparent on the face of it as to whether a competent court/family court was free to adjudicate the custody of the girl or not to leave the applicant, being the girl’s actual parent and natural guardian, without remedy.
On Nov 23, because she had declined twice to go with her parents and was ready to go to her supposed husband’s house, the bench sent Arzoo back to the shelter home.
Inclusion of seven more PPC sections in case sought
A judicial magistrate reserved on Thursday order on the charge sheet sent by an investigation officer in the Arzoo case.
Police have booked Syed Ali Azhar, his two brothers along with their friend Danish for allegedly kidnapping 13-year-old Arzoo and allegedly pressuring her to contract marriage.
Cleric Qazi Abdul Rasool, Junaid Ali Siddiqui and Mehmood Hassan were also arrested by the police for encouraging and solemnising the marriage of minors.
On Thursday, Muhammad Ali Dall, the judicial magistrate (South), took up the case to hear complaints from the lawyer defending claimant Raja Masih.
Jibran Nasir and Luke Victor, the lawyer, argued that the IO had forwarded the charge sheet containing only certain sections relating to Arzoo’s minor marriage and her suspected kidnapping, but omitted the sections relating to her kidnap.
They believed that seven separate sections were attracted to the present case, including 364-A (kidnapping or abduction for murder), 365-B (kidnapping, abduction or forced marriage of women, etc.), 375 (rape), 377 (unnatural offences), 328-A (exposure and neglect of children under the age of twelve by parents or caregivers) and 368 (unfair concealment or imprisonment of children under the age of twelve) and 368 (unfair concealment or confinement) (PPC).
The prosecution argued that all the defendants had criminally committed multiple crimes punishable under the parts listed above.
The court was asked to direct the IO to include the sections in the investigating report.
The magistrate reserved his decision to be pronounced on Dec 9 after hearing arguments.