By: Ishaq Tanoli
KARACHI: Two lawyers facing trial in a gang-rape case have been acquitted by a sessions judge, who took suo motu progress of the case and took the decision “in compliance with the judicial policy”, it emerged on Wednesday.
The two lawyers were charged with kidnapping two teenage sisters and subjecting one of them to gang-rape in Nov 2008 in an apartment within the remit of the Ferozabad police station.
Additional District and Sessions Judge (east) Hafiza Usman took suo motu progress of the case and observed that the prosecution had miserably failed to produce a single witness in support of its case despite the fact that the case was about an incident that happened in 2008.
The court was also told that the gang-rape victim, her sister and their father were not willing to appear in court.
“Due to the reason mentioned above and in compliance of Judicial Policy the court took suo motu progress and itself asked to DDPP (deputy district public prosecutor) as why the accused shall not be acquitted under section 265-K of CrPC due to lack of interest of prosecution and non producing of any single witness since 2008,” the judge wrote in her order.
Section 265-K of the criminal procedure code (CrPC) empowers a court to acquit an accused at any stage.
The accused were indicted in Aug 2009 and they had pleaded not guilty and opted to contest the charges.
The trial court had summoned all prosecution witnesses to record their statements.
The court order stated that ample opportunities were given to the prosecution, but it failed to avail them.
The court also considered the statement of the Process Server, Inspector Sajjad Ali, who had submitted that he had contacted the father of the two girls over the phone to ask them to appear in court. However, the father told him that his both daughters had got married and would not come to court. Thereafter, his cellphone remained switched off and since then his whereabouts were not known, the process server said.
The court order stated that it seemed that they were not interested in pursuing the case. The sister of the rape victim was the only eyewitness to the alleged gang-rape and in such circumstances a case was not made out against the accused as the complainant/victim and the eyewitness were only the persons who could identify the real culprits, it added.
“In my humble view, this is a fit case to acquit accused under section 265-K CrPC which empowered the court to acquit the accused at any stage if there is no probability to convict him,” the order concluded.
According to the prosecution, the victim, hailing from Gujranwala, along with her younger sister, had come to Karachi on Nov 17, 2008 to embrace Islam since their parents and relatives were against their conversion.
The girls, who then belonged to the Christian faith, had travelled with a Karachi-based family and the following day the family head, Mohammad Rafique, took both the girls to a lawyer for legal formalities regarding conversion and to hand them over to a shelter home, it said.
However, the lawyer along with his friend took the girls to his apartment in the Tariq Road area and allegedly raped the 18-year-old girl. They also made an unsuccessful attempt to sexually assault her younger sister but she resisted and got an opportunity to call Rafique through her cellphone, the prosecution added.
The police raided the apartment and arrested a lawyer and later apprehended the other accused, also a lawyer, on a lead provided by the arrested accused.The accused were remanded in judicial custody on Nov 24, 2008. However, a sessions court granted them bail against a surety bond of Rs100,000 each on Jan 13, 2009.
A case (FIR 1213/08) was registered against the accused under Sections 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement), 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person) and 376-B (when rape is committed by two or more persons) and 34 (common intention) of the Pakistan Penal Code on a complaint of the rape victim at the Ferozabad police station.
The police said that they had also recovered wine from the crime-scene and registered a separate case (FIR1214/08) under Section 4 of the Prohibition (Enforcement of Hadd) Order, 1979, against the lawyers.
Later, one of the accused got bail in this case while the other was discharged under Section 169 (release of accused when evidence deficient) of the criminal procedure code.