Shah Hussain, who was convicted of stabbing Khadija Siddiqui – a law student – 23 times, was recently released from prison much earlier than his sentence. This turned cheers into outrage as a legal victory won in the country’s apex court after years of laborious battle fell short of meeting “technical ground” of the jail authorities.
The early release has sparked outrage and a fierce social media debate with activists and celebrities questioning the legal merit of the release and denouncing it as symptomatic of cracks within the country’s spotty law enforcement.
The “technical remission” which comes amid the overwhelming wave of patriarchal violence already assaulting the nation has pushed the shame and agony a few more notches up.
Rights activists took to social media and laced into the police for “relaxing his sentence”.
“Shah Hussain stabbed @khadijasid751 23 times, released from jail after serving 3.5yrs against his 5yr sentence. Can PTI explain how when Govt cant remit sentence without Khadija’s consent nor does he qualify for good behaviour release given conviction under 324PPC @ShireenMazari1,” Jibran Nasir, a lawyer and a rights activist, wrote in a tweet.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Khadija Siddiqui said while the unannounced release of her attacker had appalled her, she remains sanguine about the potential of the precedent her case had established. She pointed out that the “technical remission” granted to the convict cannot undo the years of the legal battle that culminated in a major victory in the country’s apex court, which would continue to serve as guiding precedence for future cases.
“Despite all this, I would emphasise the fact that my attacker will still be considered a convict under the legal purview and precedence has been set. There’s no escape from this fact and therefore it hasn’t gone down in vain. I took the case to the ultimate end and wrested the right to secure a conviction for my attacker when he was acquitted.”
“When I went to the Supreme Court, I was well aware of the gravity of the matter for no other ordinary woman in the past had navigated those legal trammels and exhausting avenues to knock at the doors of the highest court in the country. It stirred a successful movement which continues to inspire hope in many women,” she added.
However, she was quick to add that the technical remission on the grounds that the convict had displayed “reformed conduct” during imprisonment begs some serious questions about the powers at the disposal of jail authorities.
On Tuesday, Punjab Prisons Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan said Shah Hussain did not receive any relief in the form of legal remission from any government official but had availed “technical remissions” which are given for blood donations and good conduct as per the law and the Constitution.
However, Siddiqui questioned the parameters under which “good conduct” is determined. “I am wondering what constitutes good behaviour after stabbing two people in broad daylight,” Siddiqui said, adding the law doesn’t explicitly mention any remission process, leaving the entire discussion to the jail authorities.
“What is worth noting here is that such remissions are not given to poor and disadvantaged people languishing in the jails for years. It is only the rich that are able to enjoy and exploit such rules,” she said, casting aspersions on the “flawed system”.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2021.
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