Mukhtar Mai Case: Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Against LHC Verdict. What Now?

Posted on April 21, 2011
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Law & Justice, People, Women
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Adil Najam

This is a sad and difficult post to write.

Today, the Supreme Court of Pakistan gave its verdict on Mukhtar (Mukhtaran) Mai’s appeal against an earlier verdict by the Lahore High Court (LHC).

The three-judge bench decided to uphold the LHC verdict. This means that the earlier decision will hold; of the six accused of Mukhtaran Mai’s gang rape, five are acquitted and a sixth will complete the life imprisonment that had already been awarded to him.

The exact wording and precise details of the judgment are not yet available, but here are the details as of now, as reported in Dawn:

ISLAMABAD: Upholding the Lahore High Court’s verdict, the Supreme Court’s three-judge bench acquitted five out of six suspects in the Mukhtaran Mai case on Thursday, DawnNews reported. However, the sixth suspect, Abdul Khalique will complete his life imprisonment sentence, the court stated in its verdict.

Speaking to journalists outside the Supreme Court, Mukhtaran Mai voiced a lack of confidence on the verdict and said that she that had lost faith in the judicial system. Human Rights organizations also condemned the release of the suspects in the Mukhtaran Mai case. When asked about a review of the Supreme Court’s verdict, Mukhtaran Mai said she would take a decision on the matter after conferring with her lawyers.

Mukhtaran Mai was represented by public prosecutor, Advocate Atizaz Hassan.

In the Mukhtaran Mai case, Police submitted a challan against 14 suspects in the Anti-Terrorism Court in July 2002. The court declared the death sentence to six suspects and released the other eight. After the verdict of the Anti-Terrorism Court was handed out, five suspects were released by the Lahore High Court’s Multan bench. Whereas, one suspect’s death sentence was changed to life imprisonment.

“I did not receive justice today, hence I have left my fate in the hands of God,” Mukhtaran Mai said while speaking to journalists from her house later. “The release of the suspects has put my life in grave danger,” she added.

We have written before about our respect for Mukhtar Mai, and how I have admired the grace and dignity under adversity that she has come to embody (here, here and here). I have detailed my own encounter with her and recounted how I saw this grace and dignity in practice. My view of her as a person and my dejection – certainly sadness, and even anger – at the decision of the three-judge bench cannot, therefore, be a surprise to anyone.

The verdict is not just a blow for Mukhtaran Mai (and the release of the accused could heighten the treats against her life) but it can and will be seen as another limp response to rape as a crime, a reflection of societal chauvinism, and a blow to womens’ rights in the country. Most importantly, the practical manifestation of the decision will be to deny closure to and to bring back into painful scrutiny the life of a woman who has already been through so much – too much – pain.

For all these reasons I am sad and angry at the decision. Of course, I realize that courts are meant to make decisions on the evidence available and the laws as stated (in principle, the system of justice works only if the idea that everyone – even the patently guilty – is innocent until proven guilty) and also that to accept the principle of an independent judiciary is also to accept the fact that the judiciary will sometimes make decisions that we will not like or agree with. Since I was not privy to the proceedings or to the details of the judgment from the three-judge bench, I do not know the legal minutia on which the judges made their decision. But, this is what I do know: I know that the social and political shadows of this decision will be deep and long – certainly for Mukhtaran Mai herself, but for all women, and for all of society in Pakistan.

For all these reasons, I believe that the next step has to be to go back to the courts. I hope that Mukhtaran Mai will not allow the case to die just yet. My understanding is that the three bench decision can still be appealed once before the full bench of the Supreme Court. I hope that Mukhtar and her legal team will do so.

I realize the emotional cost of such a decision on Mukhtaran, especially given just how long this case dragged in the Supreme Court the first time around. But I also know the importance of doing so, if only for advancing the judicial discourse on this important issue.

What happened to Mukhtaran Mai cannot be reversed, nor will society’s imbeded prejudices be over-turned by any one decision. But for those of us who believe that societal sanction for violence against women has to be over-turned, the battle for justice must go on; no matter how disheartened, sad or angry we may be at any one decision on any one day.

On the Twitter account in Mukhtar Mai’s name, a recent message read: “No court can weaken my resolve to stand against injustice.” I cannot agree with that sentiment more.

50 responses to “Mukhtar Mai Case: Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Against LHC Verdict. What Now?”

  1. Moon says:

    Another article by Sana Bucha is worth reading . Indeed she is the bravest pakistani . Practical steps should be taken to get her justice.

  2. Some comments from the ATP Facebook page:

    – “Most of the people of the Area know that the case was a fake, thanks to our media it was blown out of proportion for the sake of spicy journalism, still we are criticizing the courts but don’t want to see the other prospective. Just imagine for a moment that the case was really fake, those poor people have been in jail for nine years for doing nothing.”
    – “there are several like same case existing but no one focus on them. this case is actually solve in one month but too much time waste on it…….with no means.”
    – “I like to know how many ppl took advantage from this woman, ppl wrote books on her, took her around the World, she gave hundreds of interview, where those ppl are, pak govt should investigate them. About justice in Pakistan it’s blind. In the name of god you can do anything even murder.
    Very sad & disappointed with pak SC.”
    – “Na-Pakistan? where are the thekedars of namoos/e rasalat? what do they say about namoos’e insaan?”

  3. ASAD says:

    April 23, 2011
    Sr. Advocate Supreme Court
    Advocate for the Appellant

    I am deeply disappointed by the 21st April majority judgment of the Supreme Court dismissing the appeals filed by the gang-rape victim, Mukhtar Mai. The majority judgment is manifestly flawed and, in material particulars, is not even based on the evidence available on the record. In drawing their conclusions, the learned majority judges have disregarded cogent evidence and failed to notice actual material on the records and the facts proved thereby.

    They have also misread the evidence that they have adverted to. The learned judges have also failed to take notice of the social backdrop, which was established on the record itself, and in the context of which the horrendous crime of gang-rape was committed, reported and investigated. The decision of the majority needs to be reviewed and recalled.

    I have consulted with Mukhatar Mai, and we have decided that a Petition seeking Review of the Judgment of 21st April will be filed soon.

    The Petition will contain a full critique of the judgment. Hence there is no need for me to make any other comments in the media on the subject.

    We are grateful to the people, the media, civil society and particularly the women of Pakistan for their committed support in this critical hour.

    Aitzaz Ahsan.

  4. Monano says:

    Another example of Adil Najam’s antagonist obsession against the Judiciary. In order to malign the verdicts of two superior courts of Pakistan and to keep discussion flowing on an issue already en-cashed (mostly in dollars), he has totally ignored the death of the most popular rather beloved artist of Pakistan.

    Undoubtedly every Pakistani age 12 or older is grieved over the death of Moin Akhtar. I wonder Adil Najam and ATP have the same feelings???

  5. maskeenel says:

    Another example of beautiful sharia embedded in the minds of our judiciary and et all. Why should a woman get justice she is nothing just a possession. So treat her how ever you please who cares one day someone’s junat will be under her feet.

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