Socrates was sentenced to death by the jury of Athens. The judicial system of that time did not allow the filing of any arraignment, plea or subpoena… just a verdict after a trial in response to an allegation constituted the fundamentals of court proceedings. The dimensions and dynamics of our legal system have, however, changed their course. The entire discipline of jurisprudence is now based on evidences, admissible evidences, alternative dispute resolutions, bails and pleadings. Undoubtedly, it is a more genteel and labyrinthine form of the outmoded legal system and has its own perks. Alas, these perquisites are not only accessible to the victims but also extended to perpetrators, in some cases.
One such example was set before our remorseful eyes when a victimised ten-year-old maid’s apathetic father pardoned those very people who had allegedly been torturing, tormenting, beating, lashing, whipping and burning his forsaken daughter for several months. The incident is rueful because our courtroom demands presentation of evidences, but can absolutely overlook them if an indifferent guardian ‘pardons’ the accused in lieu of the actual victim, even if the sufferer is herself an unmistaken manifestation of all the charges.
The case of torturing a minor maid, taken up by the Supreme Court of Pakistan as a suo motu notice in January, was subjected to a seesaw ride owing to the maid’s alleged and later confirmed father Mohammad Azam’s changing testimonies. The legal document bearing Azam’s thumbprint struck concerned people with dread. How could a parent simply forgive those whose perpetration was clearly visible in the form of Tayyaba’s burnt arm and other wounds on her body? How could a parent pardon such a woman who detained his daughter in a dark storeroom, threatened her with dire consequences and kept her in wrongful confinement?
The second pardon, however, has raised other important questions: How could such a father be endowed with forgiveness who would have “no objection” in case the court directs to grant bail to the additional district and sessions judge, Raja Khurram, and his wife, Maheen? Why deplore a judge’s misconduct and disloyalty to his profession when a father has betrayed his own daughter?
Azam’s claim to have been exploited by Raja Khurram’s lawyer owing to his ‘illiteracy’ was the content of his interceding statement that gave hopes to those concerned for Tayyaba. But second retraction has actually casted doubt on his mental condition. Whether it is his state of being uneducated that should concern us or his ignorance and callousness that are to be lamented?
Khurram and Maheen recorded a statement to police on January 17, denying accusations of torturing the minor maid given that they, too, were parents to three children. Assertions like “Tayyaba was treated as member of the family” do not seem legitmate in front of the complaint launched by their neighbour that summoned the police to recover her from the house of additional judge and save her from further abuse.
Confessions like “Tayyaba was taken through a woman named Nadra in October 2016 to look after our one-and-a-half-year-old son” should itself be sufficient enough to convict the charged. Since when has hiring a minor girl as maid become lawful? Were Tayyaba’s hands big enough to look after a toddler like a mother? Was she not a kid herself? Is it not a felony as offensive as any other crime in accordance with any child protection act implemented in any nook or corner of this planet? If this ever gets indexed in the long list of criminal offences then the suggested penalty should appositely be paid by both the buyer and the seller. If you think it is an inappropriate and inexpedient demand then kindly consider the fact that Tayyaba’s father, Azam, had taken an advance worth Rs. 18,000 before sending her away to live with judge’s family. He also allegedly confessed to have remained uninformed about Tayyaba’s departure to Islamabad and had only spoken to her twice on the phone in the three intervening months. Does such a man not deserve as equal a punishment for remaining incognisant of his own daughter’s state as those accused of shoving her hands onto burning stove? Are they both not equally responsible for the pain suffered by Tayyaba, the many nights and days she must have spent crying, and the unheard screams she must have uttered in attempts to save herself from her masters’ wrath?
Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, while taking up the issue as a suo motu case, had remarked, “No agreements can be reached in matters concerning fundamental human rights. Even parents cannot deny children their fundamental rights. How did they reach a settlement on torture against the child?”
Agreements and settlements have been reached, Sir. Tayyaba’s father has denied her fundamental rights by proclaiming the case to be “baseless”. Azam has forgiven the judge and his wife after probing the matter ‘on his own’ and finding the case to be fabricated. He has relied on his investigation more than Tayyaba’s apparent fettle when she was recovered from captivity. He now claims that he had backtracked from his earlier statement of pardon under duress.
But you saw the healed and unhealed scars on her face and limbs. Her family might rent her out again after the public eye shifts its gaze to another issue. It is, therefore, incumbent on us to ensure that Tayyaba finds justice from our courts because she has not yet been asked about her verdict, whether she has cleared the accused of all charges or not. This might not have any legal significance but then we really need to work on our system which gives little or no importance to a statement given by such a victimised minor who was not considered to be under-aged enough while being sent away from home to earn for her family and bear all the lashings and threats so that her father’s pockets could be filled with Rs. 3000 every month.
This Tayyaba ought to be provided justice because if we fail her, we would shut the door of justice on all the Tayyabas of this time and that to come.