23 January 2021
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The Sindh High Court asked if rape charges should be included in the challan in the Arzoo Raja case.

The court questioned if the prime suspect, Azhar Ali, should be tried on rape charges. The documents show that they both signed nikkah papers. “How can it be rape then?”

The lawyer of Raja Lal Masih, Arzoo’s father, said the high court declared the marriage to be unlawful. If the marriage is illegal, then rape sections can applicable, he said.

The investigation officer presented a challan that included all sections of the Child Marriage Act.

The court has instructed the petitioner’s lawyer to present their arguments at the next hearing.

Arzoo Raja case

On October 13, Raja Masih, the teenager’s father, filed an FIR after she was kidnapped from her house in Railway Colony. The police found that she had been married to Syed Ali Azhar. For his part, Azhar presented a nikkahnama, free-will affidavit, and a Sanad-e-Islam certificate.

Her parents then approached a judicial magistrate seeking her protective custody. They argued that consummation of child marriage is tantamount to statutory rape and is outlawed under Section 375 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Section 5 of the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006.

The nikkahnama doesn’t have any particulars of her age or CNIC copy. It doesn’t have the medical certificate needed to prove a person is 18 in case there is no CNIC either.

Arzoo’s parents say she was forced to file a petition in the Sindh High Court on October 27 in which she claimed that she married Ali of her own free will and converted to Islam. On November 2, she was recovered on the orders of the Sindh High Court and shifted to a shelter home. Her husband was arrested and remanded into police custody.

On November 9, the court ruled that this was a child marriage after it was proven that Raja is 14 years old. The province’s law bars anyone under the age of 18 from marrying anyone.

The high court told the family that they are free to approach the family courts. If the family courts do not entertain the petition for custody then they can come to the court to seek clarification, it said and disposed of the case.

Abdul Gh Lone