City News

Court extends police custody of man who illegally married Arzoo until November 12

A day after the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered that Arzoo Fatima’s case is to be investigated in accordance with the child marriages restraint act, a local court extended her husband’s remand for three more days.

Arzoo had converted to Islam and married a man almost thrice her age. She sought a court injunction against her Christian family’s attempt to get an FIR registered at the Frere police station against her husband and in-laws.

The SHC had constituted a special medical board to determine her age, which, according to her family, was 13 years. The five-member board estimated it to be between 14 and 15 years and nearer to 14 years, based on her bone ossification and physical appearance.

On Tuesday the judicial magistrate-XXVIII sent Syed Azhar Ali in police custody on physical remand until November 12 and ordered the investigating officer to file a progress report in the next hearing.

The IO had earlier submitted a report confirming Arzoo’s age to be 14 years, saying that the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act was incorporated in the case on the recommendation of the prosecution.

He said that the SHC had also directed him to initiate proceedings against all the facilitators, including the Nikah Khawan and witnesses, of the marriage. He added that Ali’s custody was required to trace the absconding suspects.

Defence counsel Advocate Muhammad Ramzan Chaudhry opposed the remand plea, arguing that the police had failed to show any progress in the matter despite getting physical remand of his client since November 3.

He added that the addresses of the Nikah Khawan and witnesses were already available with the IO, so it was negligence and failure of him to not arrest or initiate proceedings against them. He pleaded to the court that the suspect be remanded in judicial custody.

The judge noted that the SHC had ordered the IO to initiate proceedings against the people who had violated the rules of the child marriages restraint act, and extended the remand for three days.

The FIR of the case had been lodged on the complaint of Arzoo’s father Raja at the Frere police station under Section 364-A (Kidnapping an under-14 person) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The provisions of the Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act have now been incorporated in the FIR on the SHC’s orders.

On Monday the SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha had asked Arzoo, who was brought in from the shelter home where she was being kept, if she was forced to convert to Islam.

She replied that she had converted to Islam of her own free will, and that she had not been kidnapped by anyone. She said she had married of her own free will as well. The court ordered the IO to record the statement of the petitioner in accordance with Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code within three days.

The bench said that according to the record of the National Database & Registration Authority, her date of birth is July 31, 2007, which shows her age to be 13 years.

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