Almost three years after its passage, the Sikh Marriages Act, landmark legislation that provides legal status to Sikh marriages in Punjab, is all set to receive the provincial cabinet’s approval.
Moved by Punjab’s first Sikh lawmaker, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, the bill that paved the way for Sikh marriages to be legally recognized in the province was passed unanimously in 2018. However, objections raised by the Akal Takht, one of five seats of power of the Sikhs and other members of the community, delayed the final endorsement by the provincial cabinet.
“All objections and concerns have been addressed. The Sikh Marriage Act will be presented for approval in the next meeting of the provincial cabinet,” said Sardar Mahinder Pal Singh, secretary of the parliamentary panel on human rights in the provincial legislature. “After the cabinet’s approval, I am hopeful that the implementation of the Sikh Marriage Act will not take long,” said Singh.
Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, who presented the bill in 2017, said its implementation faced procedural delays. After the bill was passed, he said, the Department of Human Rights and Minority Affairs had to prepare its Rules of Business. “Unfortunately, those rules are yet to be prepared,” he added.
At the moment, members of the community are required to register their marriages with the Gurdwara, which maintains all records. Once approved by the cabinet, Sikh marriages will gain legal status in Punjab, making Pakistan the only country to officially acknowledge such unions.
As per the bill, a Sikh marriage ceremony or Anand Karaj, will be performed in accordance with the permitted practices of Sikhism and as prescribed by the central religious scripture.
Apart from legalizing Sikh marriages in the province, the bill also lays down guidelines for eligibility, rules for dissolution of marriage and child support.
Sikh leader Sardar Bishan Singh hailed the passage of the bill as a significant achievement for Pakistan. “Despite having a small community, Pakistan has still passed the landmark bill.”
Shortly after the bill was approved by the provincial legislature, the author of the bill, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora termed it as a historic moment for the people of Punjab. Arora praised Pakistan for being the only country in the world to register Sikh marriages. On the other hand, in India, where the Sikh population has crossed the 20 million mark, members of the community are still required to register their marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2021.