Amina Lawal v. Commissioner of Police, Katsina State: Appeal of Zinā Conviction

Amina Lawal appealed her zinā (fornication) conviction by the lower court on several grounds, including: the inconclusive proof of zinā by the appellant's pregnancy because she had been married within the previous five years; the improper constitution of the Court as the kadi (qāḍī) had sat alone, without two other members, as required by law; and the invalidity of the appellant's confession by the failure of the Court to explain the meaning of zinā. Along with the grounds of appeal, the appellant’s counsel tendered a retraction of the confession that was made before the lower court. All grounds of the appeal failed. The Court held that the appellant’s confession before the lower court was valid as her testimony there indicated that she understood the meaning of zinā. This valid confession coupled with her failure to assert that her divorced husband fathered the child constituted proof of commission of zinā. The Court determined that sharīʿa (based on its understanding of Qurʾān, ḥadīth [prophetic reports], ijmāʿ [consensus], ijtihād [interpretation], and ʿurf [custom]) is supreme and overrides legislative enactments on the composition of the court. Therefore, the failure of the trial court to be constituted as required by legislation does not invalidate the decision, because the decision was issued in compliance with the dictates of sharīʿa. Amina Lawal successfully appealed this decision to the Sharia Court of Appeal.

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