Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry while disposing of petition of Pakistan Hindu Council on Thursday declared that in the existence of article 20 of the Constitution there was no need for special legislation regarding the protection of the rights of minorities.
Heading a three-member bench, the chief justice remarked that article 20 says subject to law, public order and morality, — (a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.
Akram Sheikh, counsel for the Hindu Council, stated that incidents of forced religious conversion were being witnessed in rural areas, therefore the court should ask the parliament to enact legislation for the prevention of such incidents because it is the matter of fundamental rights.
The bench observed that there was no forced religious conversion in Islamic teaching as Islam was spread all over the world through love not sword.
Sheikh said that there should be a law for giving punishment to those, who forcibly convert the religion of others.
Upon this, Justice Jawwad S Khawaja reiterated that article 20 guarantees the religious freedom and there is no need for further complication.
He said that in Pakistan people believe that new laws would resolve the problems but the matters would be settled through the implementation of laws. The chief justice said that minorities’ rights were already protected in the constitution and if someone tried to covert people of other religion forcibly, the law would take its own course.
Hearing another case regarding the illegal Jirga System, the court directed the federation, KPK and Balochistan government to furnish their replies within two weeks. Punjab and Sindh government have already submitted their replies on the petition, filed by National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) Chairperson Anis Haroon against vani and swara customs exercised through jirgas and punchayats to settle disputes.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2012.
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