ISLAMABAD: The government is all set to pass a landmark legislation, which will lead around two million members of Hindu community to get their marriages registered for the first time in Pakistan.
“It’ll be a model law for Hindus which will, of course, pave the way for registration of their marriages and address all chronic issues of Hindu community,” said Secretary Law and Justice and Human Rights Justice (retd) Raza Khan on Friday.
He was briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice and Human Rights, which was discussing the proposed draft of ‘Hindu Marriage Bill, 2015’.
The government had presented this bill before the National Assembly after the apex court ordered it to introduce legislation to enroll marriages of Hindu community.
Justice Raza said the federal government had also sought provinces’ opinion as it wanted to extend jurisdiction of this bill across the country. “Currently the proposed legislation only applies to the federal capital,” he explained.
The proposed legislation prohibits the marriage of minors by prescribing the minimum age of 18 years as a condition for contracting marriage. The concept of divorce does not exist in Hinduism; therefore, instead of the word ‘divorce’, ‘annulment of marriage’ has been used in the draft of the bill.
The bill protects customs and customary rites of Hindu community; however, it clarifies that such customs shall be certain and not unreasonable or opposed to morality.
It provides mechanism for registration of Hindu marriage, which includes conditions for contracting the marriage, procedure for dissolution of the marriage and the grounds on the basis of which such marriage can be dissolved.
The bills also provides the concept of judicial separation, where marriage remains intact and concept of restitution of conjugal rights has been provided.
Earlier, MNA Ali Muhammad of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf also suggested incorporating more ideas from similar legislation done in the United Kingdom and India. “It’ll be helpful for the government to further facilitate Hindu community while introducing such a historic legislation,” he said.
On Friday, some representatives of Hindu community –MNAs Dr Darshan and Ramesh Lal – expressed some reservations on the government bill. However, Dr Ramesh Lal later endorsed the proposed bill by suggesting some changes in the draft.
MNAs Dr Ramesh Kumar and Sanjay Perwani complained that they were not taken into confidence before the government presented the bill in the parliament. Prior to the government owned bill, MNAs Dr Darshan and Ramesh Lal had introduced a Hindu Marriage Bill in 2014.
MNA Dr Ramesh had also been pleading the case in the Supreme Court since 2007 and had sought its help to solve the chronic problem. However, government and the Hindu community were at odds over the divorce clause in the Hindu Marriage Bill since 2008. The government differed with the Hindu leaders, who believe ‘divorce’ is not part of the religion.
Earlier, the former president Asif Ali Zardari In 2012 recommended “a quick passage of the Hindu Marriage Registration Bill” by constituting a three-member panel. The panel, in its 13-page report, had recommended tabling the Hindu Marriage Registration Bill in parliament along with another bill against forced conversions being reported in Sindh province.
The law and justice ministry, then, had started work on a rough draft of the bill.