Regulations: LHC for new matrimony licence policy for Christians

Petitioners call the policy discriminatory, unlawful

Our Correspondent June 24, 2015
Petitioners call the policy discriminatory, unlawful. PHOTO: LHC.GOV.PK


Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of Lahore High Court (LHC) ordered the government on Tuesday to reconstitute in two months the policy for issuing matrimony licences for Christians.

The judge took up a petition challenging the policy calling it discriminatory. The Council of Bishops of National Churches Pakistan had filed the petition through its chairman Bishop Yousaf Suhail and secretary Bishop Jan Nisar Asif. Bishop Salman Masih and Pastor Tariq Zia are also among the petitioners.

The petitioners submitted through Naveed Ashraf Rana that on January 9, 2007, the government had issued a policy letter under Section 9 of the Christian Marriage Act 1877 for issuing matrimony licences for Christians. The lawyer said under the policy, a licence holder should be a matriculate. One could apply for a licence only for himself. The candidate was also required to obtain a character certificate from the police chief of his district.

Rana said a licence was renewable after five years. The candidates were asked to apply for licences at least a month before they could be issued. The licences were across Pakistan. Under the policy, district coordination officers must be informed about the licences issued. The lawyer said that on November 29, 2012, his client Salman Masih had filed an application for the renewal of his licence. His application was rejected for the reason that he was 62 years of age and the policy allowed licences for only those under the age of 60 years.

He said on June 11, 2013, the minority affairs deputy secretary had issued a letter relaxing the age limit to 70 years. “Still, my client’s licence is not being renewed. This constitutes discrimination,” the lawyer said.

He said there was no age limit for Muslim nikah khwans. “The government is also discouraging local churches by promoting international churches. The same checks are not applied to international churches.”

The petitioners have requested the court to declare the policy illegal. They also requested for a new policy. The judge remarked that he was not inclined to interfere in the policy guidelines. However, he ordered the government to take the petitioners on board and make the policy afresh.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2015.


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