24 December 2022
By Rehan Piracha
The Peshawar High Court has acquitted a rape convict after a compromise with the victim, a 20-year-old woman with hearing and speech disabilities, whom he has married.
A bench in Mingora, consisting of Justice Mohammad Naeem Anwar and Justice Mohammad Ijaz Khan, accepted an appeal filed by the convict, Dawlat Khan, a resident of Buner district, setting aside his rape conviction on the basis of compromise.
A gender-based violence court in Buner had convicted the man on May 17, 2022, sentencing him to life imprisonment with a fine of Rs100,000 in default of which he had to undergo six months more imprisonment. The case against him was registered under section 376 (rape) of the Pakistan Penal Code on August 24, 2020, in Doggar police station on the complaint of the victim’s mother.
The trial court convicted the man after the woman gave birth to a son and DNA paternity test proved he was the child’s biological father. A local jirga helped broker a compromise in which the rapist married the victim and paid compensation.
Senior lawyers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and women rights activists have criticised the judgment saying no compromise can be reached in rape charge as it is a non-compoundable offence under the law.
Women rights activist Saima Munir told Voicepk.net that the Supreme Court should take note of the high court judgment that apparently sets a notion that the high court is supporting rapists.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, senior lawyer Mehwish Muhib Kakakhel said the Jirga compromise holds no guarantee that the man would lead a peaceful marital life with the victim after his release. “Marriage is being used as a tool for the acquittal of rapists in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” Kakakhel added.
She said the provincial government should appeal the verdict to ensure the safety of the rape survivor and infant child.
Senior lawyer Shabbir Gigyani termed the verdict against the law. “Justice Qazi Faez Isa of the Supreme Court in a recent judgment has clarified that no compromise was legal in cases of non-compoundable offences, ” he said.
According to the terms of the compromise deed, the jirga members fixed the dower of the victim as two tolas gold besides Rs500,000 as compensation to her and the complainant and an amount of Rs50,000 for dowry articles of the victim.
The cash amount along with a tola of gold (prompt dower) was in the custody of an elder of the area named Taj Mohammad, who also appeared before the court and admitted it. “Thus without going into the controversy regarding the fact that the offence is non-compoundable, etc as the parties entered into a compromise when the marriage of the victim has been solemnised with the appellant, besides compromise appears to be in the larger interest of the parties, on acceptance of the compromise the appeal stands allowed,” the bench ruled.