Christian marriages: Judge dismayed over govt failure on divorce law reform

Attorney general of Pakistan directed to appear in court on May 12

Our Correspondent April 06, 2016
Attorney general of Pakistan directed to appear in court on May 12. PHOTO: EPA/FILE

LAHORE: Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of Lahore High Court on Wednesday expressed dismay over failure of lawmakers to reform Christian family laws and sought assistance from the attorney general of Pakistan on a petition challenging repeal of Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act.

The judge directed the AG to appear on May 12. The judge ordered a proclamation in newspapers inviting suggestions on this issue from Christian lawmakers in the Provincial Assembly and the National Assembly.

Former bishop Alexander John Malik had submitted that Section 7 of Divorce Act 1869 should be restored.

Hina Jillani, an amicus curie (friend of court), supported the petitioner’s view. She said the legislature had failed to reform the law. She said scores of Christians were confused about regulations regarding divorce.

Ameen Masih, a resident of Youhanabad had filed the petition. Advocate Sheraz Zaka, counsel for the petitioner, said the original law had allowed the courts to decide petitions regarding divorce.

He said the provision was omitted through Federal Laws (Revision & Declaration) Ordinance, 1981 during President Ziaul Haq’s regime.

He said that in the United Kingdom, the Matrimonial Causes Act provided a cushion to Christian couple to part ways if marriage had broken down irretrievably. He said such grounds for divorce were not available in Pakistan for Christians.

He said the only ground available in the law was for a man to divorce his wife through allegations of adultery. He said this was derogatory.

He said it was shocking that for three decades, no law had been enacted for protection of Christian minorities.

“It has been more than 145 years since the Divorce Act 1869 was reformed,” he said.

He said there was no regulatory mechanism for registration of marriages and divorces.

He requested the court to declare the omission of Section 7 of Divorce Act 1869 unconstitutional. He also requested the court to direct the government to reform the law.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th,  2016.