March 25th, 2022
By Rehan Piracha
Five men were jailed for life on Friday after a court convicted them of forcibly stripping a couple in an Islamabad apartment last year.
The case remained in media glare when a video of four people harassing the couple at gunpoint went viral on social media in July 2021. Police had arrested seven men in connection with the assault and forced stripping of the couple as seen in videos on social media.
Announcing his verdict on March 25, Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani sentenced prime suspect Usman Ibrar Mirza and his four co-accused Hafiz Atta-ur-Rehman, Adaras Qayoum Butt, Mohib Khan and Farhan Shaheen, to life imprisonment for forcing the couple to strip naked as well as filming the incident which was made public through leaked videos shared on social media. The life imprisonment was awarded under Section 354-A relating to assault or use of criminal force to a woman and stripping her of her clothes of the Pakistan Penal Code. The five convicts were also fined Rs200,000 each and would undergo one month of imprisonment in case of non-payment.
The court acquitted two other co-accused -Umar Bilal and Rehan Hassan Mughal- in the case over lack of evidence.
According to the court’s order, the five men were also sentenced to seven years of imprisonment on charge of criminal intimidation under Section 506 of the PPC. The court also sentenced them to three years’ imprisonment for intending to insult the modesty of a woman under Section 509 of the PPC while giving them one-year imprisonment over wrongful confinement of the couple under Section 342 of the PPC. All the sentences would run concurrently and the convicts would be given benefit of time already served in jail included in the sentence.
Facial features of convicts matched with videos: court
The court observed that all the accused were very visible in the video clips with their faces, dresses and roles. “In this way the prosecution has established to prove its case that the accused Usman Ibrar Mirza, Hafiz Atta-ur-Rehman, Adaras Qayoum Butt, Mohib Khan and Farhan Shaheen, gathered in prosecution of common object, committed crime, and outraged he modesty of the vcitm, wrongfully confined the victims in a room of the flat, used disgraceful words by touching the body of the lady and they also tortured both the victims as visible the video clips,” reads the court order.
The court said the facial features of the accused Usman Ibrar Mirza, Hafiz Atta-ur-Rehman and Adaras Qayoum Butt, matched with the videos of the incident. The court observed that the evidence comprising modern devices and technology reveals that the obscene video clips in question were viral on social media and people in Pakistan and people even of international had watched the video.
The court said the prosecution proved that the videos were authentic and there was no editing and tampering in the video clips. The court said the accused have failed to prove that the viral videos were fake.
No rape, extortion proved
The judge the prosecution had failed to establish its case relating to offences relating to extortion, dacoity, rape and stolen property under sections 384, 395, 375A, 411 of the PPC. The court observed that there was no evidence no prove the allegation that the accused had extorted Rs 6000 and Rs 11, 25,000 from the victims.
About the acquitted accused Umar Bilal and Rehan Hassan Mughal, the court observed that they were not visible in the videos of the incident. Besides, the victims have retracted from their statements during the identification parade in which they had identified Umar Bilal and Rehan Mughal, the court said.
In January, the woman complainant retracted her statement against the accused and told the court that she did not want to pursue the case. However, Maleeka Bukhari, Parliamentary Secretary for Law, announced that that the state would take up the case as it had irrefutable video and forensic evidence on record.
Verdict proves acceptability of evidence through modern technology: minister
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhary said the life sentences given in the couple harassment case proved admissibility of evidence gathered through modern technology. “Despite the retracting of the victims, the award of life sentence in the Usman Mirza case is a welcome development towards acceptability of evidence gathered through modern technology,” he said in his tweet.
He said the evidence gained through modern technology would also help in victims getting justice in other cases including the lynching of a Sri Lankan national in Sialkot.