The Christian Divorce Act has once again come into question before Lahore High Court (LHC).
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah has already sent recommendations to the Federal Law Ministry for amendments to the Act in line with people’s needs.
Taking up another petition last week, Justice Shah appointed Advocate Hina Jilani amicus curie for assistance on the plea seeking revival of a provision omitted by former military ruler General Ziaul Haq. The court also issued notices to the bishop of Pakistan, the bishop of Lahore and federal and provincial governments on the petition by Amin Masih.
Masih had filed the petition through Advocate Sheraz Zaka for the revival of Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act, 1869. He said under the clause “the high courts and district courts shall act and give relief on principles and rules which are as nearly as may be conformable to the principles and rules on which the Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes in England for the time being acts and gives relief”.
He said the law had been applicable until 1981 when Ziaul Haq imposed the Federal Laws (Revision and Declaration) Ordinance, 1981, omitting the provision. He said following the omission, Section 10 of the Act was applicable, which says “Any husband may present a petition to the district court or the high court, praying that his marriage may be dissolved on the ground that his wife has been guilty of adultery.” He said this was the only provision of divorce for Christians… making their miserable because a couple could not obtain divorce even with mutual consent.
He requested the court to issue directions to the government for the revival of section 7.
He said his client, Amin Masih, had divorced his wife but the law was not recognising the same. He said the couple did not want to live together even though the woman did not have loose morals. He said some lawyers had advised his client to accuse his wife of adultery in order to divorce her.
A petition was filed in the LHC last week against the Punjab Marriage Functions Ordinance, 2016, prohibiting the serving of more than one dish at weddings and late-night marriage ceremonies at homes. The petitioner says the ordinance is in conflict with Articles 9 (right to life, liberty as per law), 14 (dignity of man, the privacy of home), 25 (equality) and 38 (promotion of social and economic well-being of the people) of the Constitution.
“Holding a wedding at a public place in view of the ordinance has been fixed with consequences; hence the ordinance has been assailed for being ultra vires of the Constitution.” The petitioner said the governor had no authority to issue such an ordinance. He requested the court to set aside the ordinance.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 18th, 2016.
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