Pak may consult Indian experts on Hindu marriage law

Pak may consult Indian experts on Hindu marriage law

The draft law for registering marriages in the minority Hindu community has been held up because the government and Hindu leaders have been unable to overcome differences on the clause on divorce.

National Harmony Minister Akram Masih Gill, whose ministry is responsible for the affairs of minority communities, pointed out that India's Hindu Marriage Act of 1956 contains a divorce clause.

He said his ministry will consult Indian experts on the issue if consensus is not reached. Gill said his department was in the final stages of drafting the revised bill.

"The divorce clause is an integral part of the Hindu Marriage Act," he told The Express Tribune.

The clause on divorce in the proposed Hindu Marriage Act has proved contentious since the bill was drafted in 2008, with the government differing with Hindu leaders, who believe divorce is not part of their religion’s culture.

"We will never allow the government to have a divorce clause in the Hindu Marriage Act... We have no concept of divorce in our religion," said Pakistan Hindu Council chief patron Ramesh Kumar.

Kumar, a member of the National Assembly or lower house of parliament on a reserved seat for non-Muslims, has been campaigning for the issue for many years.

In 2007, he filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking its help to resolve the problem.
Hindus are Pakistan's largest minority but they have struggled to register their marriages due to chronic delays in the passage of the act by parliament.

Pakistan currently has no system for registering marriages for certain minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs and Baha’is.

Clause 13 of the proposed 16-page bill states that any Hindu can divorce his wife or her husband at any time and in any court. Various conditions have been proposed for divorce proceedings.

The draft empowers any court to entertain a petition for the legal dissolution of a marriage.

The bill contains several other rules, such as when divorcees can marry again, the legal rights of children, void and voidable marriages, punishment for bigamy and other contraventions of Hindu marriage laws. The proposed bill is unlikely to be accepted by other minorities.

Sikh leaders have dispelled the impression that the proposed bill can be applied to register marriages of Sikhs based on the Indian model.

In a related development, a new member’s bill on Hindu marriages was introduced in parliament yesterday by lawmaker Kishan Chand Parwani.

The Hindu Marriage Bill 2011 might offer a compromise that bridges the gap between Hindu leaders and the government, reports said.

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