View from the courtroom : Convictions in women-related cases encouraging


MPA (400+ posts)
Two recent judgments by trial courts related to violence against women in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have drawn public attention. These verdicts are considered encouraging as the courts have convicted accused persons in two different types of crimes gang rape and death of an acid burn victim which always remain of much concern for the human rights activists because of low rate of convictions.In one of the cases in Peshawar, additional district and sessions judge Ms Riffat Aamir convicted a man and his sister for killing his wife by throwing acid on her and sentenced both of them to death with a fine of Rs200,000.

The judge on Feb 27 ruled that the evidence on record connected the two accused Amjid Ali and his sister Samina with the commission of the offence.The two convicts, belonging to Nauthia area in Peshawar, were charged with killing Amjids wife Mashada Bibi, a mother of five, on May 23, 2013 by throwing acid on her. The accused persons insisted that the death of the woman was accidental. The complainant, Gulab Shah, brother of the deceased, had stated that his sister was married to Amjid around 10 years ago. He claimed that her husband and in-laws were not treating her well and would often thrash her.

Read: Case in KP: Girl to move PHC against light sentences for rapistsTwo minor sons of the deceased woman, Wajid and Majid, had testified against their father and told police that they saw their father and aunts throwing acid on their mother. The woman was taken to hospital where she had succumbed to burn injuries.Similarly, in a widely condemned gang rape case, an anti-terrorism court in Abbottabad on March 5 convicted head of a seminary Qari Naseer and his accomplice Mohammad Faizan and sentenced them each to 14 years rigorous imprisonment.

They were accused of subjecting a first year girl student to rape in a moving car. The judge, Raja Masood, also convicted a co-accused, Hussain Mushtaq who was driving the car, and sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment, whereas a female co-accused, Ms Anam, was acquitted.

The occurrence had taken place on May 12 last year when the seminary head, who was mastermind of the crime, and his two accomplices tricked the student to their car with help of the class fellow of victim and two of them raped her in the moving car from Mansehra to Abbottabad. The incident had resulted in public outcry due to which the case was referred to the ATC for trial.The victim and her counsel have now expressed reservations about the sentence given to convicts and acquittal of the female accused person. The counsel, Mustapha Khan, told media persons that as the crime had been proved against the convicts without any shadow of doubt they should have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

He made it clear that the verdict would be challenged before the Peshawar High Court for enhancing sentences to the convicts.Legal experts believe that when rape offence is committed by two or more persons then the sentence provided for the crime is death penalty or life imprisonment, and therefore the ATC, Abbottabad, should have awarded one of those sentences instead of 14 years imprisonment.Through the Protection of Women (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act, 2006 the then government made important changes to the Offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979, Offence of Qazf (Enforcement of Hadd) Ordinance 1979, Pakistan Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure.The said Act provided for insertion of the offence of rape in the PPC through introducing Sections 375 and 376 in it.

Previously, the said offence was present in the Zina Ordinance. Section 376 (2) states: When rape is committed by two or more persons in furtherance of common intention of all, each of such persons shall be punished with death or imprisonment for life.About the use of acid in cases of violence against women, experts believe that the law needs to be improved for controlling such crimes. Most important of all the government needs to regulate the sale and purchase of acid so as to curtail its use in such heinous crimes, said Shahnawaz Khan,

an advocate of the Supreme Court.Mr Khan said that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2011 was enacted over three years ago for punishing those causing hurt to anyone by using any corrosive substance, including acid. The said Act provides for maximum sentence of life imprisonment and minimum of up to 14 years with a fine of Rs1 million for the offence of hurting a person with corrosive substances. However, he added, the present law did not cover regulation of acid business.In 2013,

the then Peshawar High Court chief justice Dost Mohammad Khan had asked the federal government to make suitable amendments to the law for regulating the sale and purchase of acids as incidents of violence against women through use of acid were on the rise.Hearing a bail petition of a suspect arrested on the charges of smuggling certain chemicals,

Justice Dost Mohammad (now an SC judge) had observed that there were lacunas in the existing laws due to which the perpetrators of acid attacks on women were encouraged. He had observed that the law should clearly spell out which would be the authority to issue a licence for sale of acids; who can sell and purchase it; and for what purpose purchase of acid would be allowed.Unfortunately, the directives given by the high court fell on deaf ears and so far the required amendments have not been introduced in the law.
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