LAHORE: A law, exclusively regulating the marriages of the ‘Sikh Community’, is about to make history in Pakistan as it is the first time that family matters of the community, such as marriage, will be separately regulated. The Punjab Sikhs Anand Karaj Marriages Act 2017 is likely to be tabled in the Punjab Assembly in the coming days.
Notwithstanding the fact that the act is confined to Punjab, this is the first time that the provincial government has provided the Sikh community to protect their own family laws and customs.
The Sikh community seemed overjoyed with the completion of the process of the bill and lauded the role of the Punjab government. They said it was a good omen which showed love and respect for their community members, adding it allowed them to protect family matters.
PML-N MPA Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora said it is unfortunate that Sikhs had not been given a separate identity in terms of their family laws, even in India. He said it was the first time the family laws of Sikhs would be regulated separately in Pakistan and gave credit to the Punjab government. He said it was necessary to define the law in order to regulate solemnisation and dissolution of Sikh marriages, provision of maintenance and the matters ancillary and incidental thereto.
Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (PSGPC) President Sardar Tara Singh said “there was no law for the Sikh community, but now their family matters will be dealt with through relevant legislation”. He said their community had to face several issues due to the lack of legislation.
Talking to The Express Tribune, PML-N’s Rana Muhammad Arshad, the chief whip in the Punjab Assembly, said the government’s job was to protect the right of every community living in Pakistan. He confirmed all efforts would be made to get the law passed in this session of the Punjab Assembly. He said the government accepted their separate religion and Chief Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif also gave his nod of approval of the bill. He added provincial law minister Rana Sanaullah and other key members were on board.
The Punjab Sikhs Anand Karaj Marriages Act 2018
Definition of Sikh and religion
Sikh means prescribed in the law as- Sikh means a person who follows Sikh religion as a monotheistic Sikh religion and believes in the scriptures of Guru Granth Sahib and does not subscribe to any other religion and Sikh religion means the belief in Akalpurakh (One Eternal Being) the ten Gurus from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh and the acceptance of Guru Granth Sahib as the Eternal-Living Guru.
Solemnisation of Marriage
No male or female of the Sikh community who will be below the age of eighteen years, could solemnise marriages under the law.
Saving of Marriages
Nothing in the Act will affect the validity of any marriage duly solemnized according to any other marriage ceremony customary among the Sikhs.
Registration of Marriages
Every marriage between Sikhs shall be registered under the Act. For the purpose of the registration of marriages under the Act, the government, in the prescribed manner, shall grant license to one or more persons professing Sikh religion to be called Anand Karaj Registrar, authorizing him to grant Anand Karaj Certificate.
The bridegroom and the bride or a Granthi shall fill the Anand Karaj form and present it, within thirty days of the marriage, to the Anand Karaj Registrar for registration of the marriage and a copy thereof shall be sent to the chairman. Chairman means the chairman of a union council or municipal committee or any officer authorized by the government to perform the functions of the chairman under the act.
A marriage, which is not solemnized by the Anand Karaj Registrar, shall, for the purpose of registration under the Act, be reported within thirty days of the solemnization of the marriage to him (chairman) by the Granthi or the person who solemnized the marriage.
The violators will be punished and fined which may extend to ten thousand.
Dissolution of Marriage
Any party that wishes to dissolve the marriage shall give to the chairman notice in writing of his or her intention to do so and shall supply a copy thereof to the other party. Within thirty days of the receipt of the notice under subsection (1), the chairman shall constitute an arbitration council in the prescribed manner for the purpose of bringing about reconciliation between them and the council shall take all steps necessary to that effect.
If reconciliation is not effected within 90 days from the date of the notice, the chairman shall, after the lapse of the ninety days, declare the marriage to have been dissolved and issue the certificate of the dissolution of marriage in prescribed manner.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2018.