ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Friday set aside the extended three-year sentence awarded to former additional district and sessions judge Raja Khurram Ali Khan and his wife Maheen Zafar for torturing a minor domestic helper, while maintaining the one year sentence, which was handed down by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) in April 2018.
The apex court had reserved its judgement on appeals filed by the judge and his wife in May last year.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam had taken up appeals filed by Khan and his wife, who had first been sentenced to a year in jail in April 2018 for keeping the then 10-year-old Tayyaba in wrongful confinement, burning her hand over a missing broom, beating her with a ladle, detaining her in a storeroom and threatening her with “dire consequences”.
In June 2018, when both convicts appealed against the sentence, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had increased their jail time from one year to three years, with an Rs500,000 fine.
In the verdict announced today, the apex court set aside the three-year sentence and maintained the earlier one-year jail term for the convicts.
The written judgment announced in an open court today, authored by Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan, Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Yayha Afridi, presented a similar judgment on both the convicts’ appeals. The court said that the conviction and initial sentence awarded to the convicts will be maintained.
“While maintaining her conviction under Section 328-A [of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC)], the sentence enhanced from one-year simple imprisonment to that of three years by the division bench of the [Islamabad] High Court in its judgment dated 11.06.2018 is set aside,” the judgment stated.
However, the verdict stated that the quantum of the sentence for the offense under Section 328-A is the subject matter of another appeal pending before the court and will be decided accordingly.
Section 328-A states that “whoever willfully assaults, ill-treats, neglects, abandons or does an act of omission or commission, that results in or has, potential to harm or injure the child by causing physical or psychological injury to him shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year and may extend up to three years, or with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five thousand rupees and may extend up to fifty-thousand rupees, or with both”.
The case of Tayyaba, a young domestic worker employed in the convicts’ household, first came to light after photos of the tortured child began circulating on social media in 2016. She was rescued from their residence with visible wounds on December 28, 2016, and a first information report was filed against her employers a day later.
Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Vice-Chancellor Dr Javed Akram had confirmed at the time that Tayyaba had been tortured.
“During her first visit to the hospital, the child claimed she was burnt while trying to switch on the television. But the wounds indicated that a hot iron rod had been placed on her arm,” he said at the time.
Although Khan had reached a compromise with Tayyaba’s parents on January 2, 2017, the SC took suo motu notice of the matter two days later with the strict warning that “no agreements can be reached in matters concerning fundamental human rights”.