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Counsel wants girl tried in juvenile court

By: Malik Asad

ISLAMABAD: The attorney of a lawyer, who was seeking bail for the Christian girl charged under blasphemy and suffering from Down syndrome, was superseded as four other lawyers on Tuesday filed fresh papers of attorney before the district and sessions judge of Islamabad in the alleged blasphemy case.

Anjum Riaz, a Lahore-based lawyer earlier had filed post arrest bail application for the Christian girl, a minor, in which he contended that the girl was a chronic patient of Down syndrome and was falsely implicated in the case registered under section 295-B of Pakistan Panel Code (PPC) for allegedly burning the prayers of Holy Quran.

In the bail plea, the counsel pointed out that being a minor, the girl would only be tried by the juvenile court under the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) 2000.

District and sessions judge Islamabad, Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan on August 23, raised some objections on the bail plea and directed the counsel to provide certified copy of the FIR registered against the girl.

Advocate Riaz did not appear in the court on Tuesday, another lawyer advocate Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, however, filed another application in the same court in which he contended that advocate Riaz was not an authorised lawyer of the accused girl because neither the girl nor any of her guardian had signed the papers’ of attorney which he submitted in the court.

In the meanwhile, three more lawyers also submitted their papers’ of attorney for the defence of the girl. Advocate Chaudhry, a Member of Punjab Assembly from the minorities told Dawn that the three lawyers — Khawaja Faisal, Pervez Khan and Chaudhry Mussadiq — would form a panel to defend the Christian girl.

He said that some non-governmental organisations wanted to hijack the issue but in order to protect the rights of a Christian girl he as well as other likeminded lawyers have made a panel for the legal assistance of the girl.

The court, however, while admitting the papers of four lawyers observed that an application for the verification of the age of the accused girl was also pending for adjudication.

The court admitted the said application for regular hearing and directed the district magistrate (deputy commissioner) Islamabad for making necessary arrangements for the determination of the age of the Christian girl, adding that the district magistrate should keep in mind the sensitivity of the matter while seeking medical report from the quarters concerned.

The court directed the district magistrate to submit the report by August 30 and adjourned the hearing.

A court official told Dawn that after receiving the medical reports from the district magistrate on next date of hearing, the court would decide to proceed with the matter under the JJSO or Criminal Procedure Code (Cr PC).

According to him, the maximum punishment in the offence under section 295 of PPC is life imprisonment and if the accused would be tried under JJSO, she would be released maximum after six months of confinement, if her trial was not concluded in this period.

But under Cr PC, the accused would not be released on bail till conclusion of her trial which may take one or two years because 295 PPC is a non-bailable offence in Cr PC.