LHC hears petition agaisnt restoration of Section 7 of Christian Divorce Act

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The Lahore High Court heard the petition challenging restoration of Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act, 1869. LHC heard the case on October 9, Monday and issued notices to the federal as well as provincial governments on the appeal against restoration of the Section 7.

Christian Divorce Act

The petitioner Emmanuel Francis has challenged restoration of Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act, 1989. Section 7 allows Christian couples to divorce each other on grounds other than adultery. LHC judge Ayesha A Malik, who was heading the division bench heard the petition. Counsel of the petitioner, Advocate Saif ul Malook had challenged the decision of the single bench comprising Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.

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Advocate Saif ul Malook argued how Section 7 was restored when it was not part of the relevant law of Christian Divorce Act, 1869. He said that if not, Section 10 provided Christian couples a legitimate way to part ways. He also maintained that a Supreme Court bench had declared the law as intra vires to the Constitution of Pakistan.

He further argued that how a single bench could allow a petition against historic law approved by both National Assembly and the Supreme Court. After hearing initial arguments, the LHC bench issued notices to the parties for arguments.

Chief Justice Mansoor Ali Shah restored section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act 1869 which permitted the Christian couples to file a case for dissolution of marriage on ordinary grounds. In 1981, then ruler General Zia-ul-Haq had Section 7 suspended through an ordinance. After suspension of Section 7, Christian men could not legally divorce their wives except on adultery charges.

Previously, Amin Masih, another Christian man had sought restoration of Section 7,maintained that he wanted to divorce his wife without leveling adultery accusations against her. Amin Masih’s counsel Advocate Sheraz Zaka had maintained that restoration of Section 7 would allow Christian men to divorce their wives on reasonable grounds without accusing their wives of adultery.

Advocate Zaka argued that after suspension of Section 7, the only ground Christian men could divorce their wives was under Section 10, which required charges of adultery to be brought against the woman; which greatly tarnished the self-esteem of women.