SHC refuses to allow Hindu-convert Salma to live with husband

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Orders prosecution to prove girl’s actual age so that no decision is taken in contravention of Child Marriage Restraint Act 

The Sindh High Court (SHC) Friday declined to allow Salma alias Anjali, who recently converted to Islam allegedly under duress, to live with her husband due to contradictory reports about her age.

Keeping in view three versions of age of Anjali Kumari Meghwar, who was rechristened Salma after allegedly converting from Hinduism to Islam, the court declined to allow her to go with her husband unless her age is determined.

The detailed verdict issued by a division bench of SHC stated that if Salma was allowed to go with her husband prior to the determination of her age, it would frustrate the very purpose of the Child Marriage Restraint Act 2014.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah issued the verdict in a petition filed by Kundandas Meghwar against the alleged forced conversion of her daughter and subsequent marriage with a Muslim boy, Riaz Ahmed Siyal.

The petitioner had pleaded the court to order provincial authorities to constitute a medical board to conduct examine Salma to ascertain her age.

Petitioner’s counsel Syed Ali Ahmed Tariq submitted that petitioner’s “12-year-old” daughter was abducted and “forcibly converted to Islam”. He told the judges that a case under Section 3 and 4 of the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act was registered against accused Riaz as Anjali was a “minor”. The counsel pointed out that since Anjali is a minor, she cannot be allowed to go with her spouse.

On Wednesday, the bench had summoned Anjali to know her will and record her statement. It allowed the young girl to meet her spouse and parents outside the courtroom.

While recording her statement, Anjali said she had not been abducted but had eloped with Riaz, adding that she married him out of her own free will.

She told the judges that she is 18 years old and an adult. Following the court order, the investigation officer (IO) also recorded her statement.

The court observed in its verdict that there were three versions regarding the girl’s age. According to her father, she is 12, her medical report says she is between 14 to 15 whereas she herself claims to be 18.

Since Salma was not willing to go with her parents, the court ordered that she be sent back to Panah Shelter Home and tasked the prosecution to prove her actual age before the court.