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Tayyaba torture case: SC reserves verdict on appeals of convicts

Tayyaba torture case: SC reserves verdict on appeals of convicts

The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its judgement on appeals filed by a judge and his wife, who were jailed for torturing a minor maid employed as domestic help in Islamabad.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Mushir Alam had taken up appeals filed by former additional district and sessions judge Raja Khurram Ali Khan and his wife Maheen Zafar, who had been sentenced to one 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 of "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 a Rs500,000 fine.

Editorial: Little Tayyaba’s grim story illustrates some of Pakistani society's worst aspects

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.

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."

During today's hearing, the Islamabad advocate general told the court that as per the statement of neighbours, the convicts had burnt Tayyaba's hand after a broom went missing. This statement was corroborated by the child maid's own testimony, he added.

He said after pictures of the torture went viral on social media, the minor girl was made to disappear by her employers, who later themselves reported her as missing. Tayyaba was subsequently recovered from the former judge's own residence, where she suffered all of her bruises, the counsel said.

According to the Islamabad advocate general, the minor girl had stated that her hand was burnt using a ladle and she was later tied to a water tank by her employers. The convicts also used to threaten Tayyaba that the "police would beat her" if she revealed the torture to anyone, he added.

Quoting the findings of a medical board, the counsel said at least 22 bruises on the child's body were found to be old while three injuries were fresh.

Justice Yahya Afridi inquired why no complaint was filed against Tayyaba's father, who he observed had left his daughter at the mercy of strangers for two years. At this, the additional advocate general informed the bench that although the father merited a case of abetment to be registered against him, he was nowhere to be found when the episode had unfolded.

The lawyer representing the convicts argued that Tayyaba had at no point stated in her cross-examination that she was subjected to solitary confinement in her employers' house, and that she had instead spoken of "being cared for like parents" by the former judge and his wife.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan, who was also part of the bench, asked the counsel: "If the minor girl had been kidnapped, how was she recovered from your [clients'] house the very next day?"

The petitioners' lawyer had no evidence regarding the kidnapping claim, the judge remarked.

The lawyer once again argued that two doctors after Tayyaba's examination had stated that her bruises were "accidental". The child was "made to say" five months later that her hand was burnt on the stove.

After hearing all sides, the apex court reserved its judgement on the appeals filed by Khan and his spouse. No date has been revealed for when the verdict will be announced.

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