Safiyatu Hussaini Tungar Tudu v. The State: Appeal of Zinā Conviction

This case is an appeal of a zinā (fornication) conviction by the Upper Sharīʿa Court of Gwadabawa, Nigeria, on several grounds, including: the trial court's lack of jurisdiction on the grounds that the Sharīʿa Penal Code upon which the appellant's trial and conviction was based came into existence after the alleged commission of the offense, and the failure of the trial court to explain the nature of the crime to the accused person. During the proceedings, the Appellant's counsel retracted the confession that the appellant had made to the trial court. The Court held that a person cannot be punished for an offense not known to law at the time of commission. The Court further determined that, because the Sharīʿa Penal Law of Sokoto State had not been enacted at the time the offense was committed, the conviction was invalid. Furthermore, it determined that the confession of the Appellant before the trial court was invalid due to the defects in the charge and the failure to explain the offense to the Appellant. Even if the confession had been valid, its retraction upon appeal was valid because retraction of confession is valid at any time before judgment. Pregnancy by a divorced or widowed woman is not conclusive proof of zinā where such pregnancy occurs within 5-6 years of the previous marriage. It is an overriding principle (according to the doubt canon) that where doubt exists, fixed criminal penalties (ḥadd penalties) should be avoided. The Court quashed the conviction.

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