LHC Issues Notices to Reform Christian Divorce Act 1869

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christian-divorce-1The Lahore High Court on February 19, 2016 issued notices to the federal and Punjab governments on a petition challenging the repealing of section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act.

Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had also issued notices to Bishop of Pakistan Alexander John Malik and Bishop of Lahore Irfan Jamil and sought replies from the respondents till March 28.

Bishop of Pakistan Alexander John Malik in his reply supported the petition and requesting to repeal the impugned provision.

Judge had already appointed senior counsel Hina Jillani as Amicus Curie (friend of the court) to assist on the issue.

Ameen Masih, a resident of Youhanabad, Lahore, filed the petition submitting that in the UK, the Matrimonial Causes Act was interpreted in a liberal manner providing a cushion to both Christian man and woman to part their ways if marriage is a irretrievably broken down or with mutual consent, but this ground is not available in Pakistan for Christians. He submitted that the only ground available is in section 10 for a man to divorce his wife and that is an allegation of adultery and it was derogatory.

Masih had filed the petition through Advocate Sheraz Zaka to seek the re-institution of Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act 1869. Zaka said the section allowed high courts and district courts to act and provide relief on rules and principles that were almost identical to the principles and rules on which England’s Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes acted and gave relief. He said the section was in force till the introduction of the 1981 Federal Laws (Revision and Declaration) Ordinance that had repealed the provision. Thereafter, the counsel for the petitioner said, Section 10 was applicable. “Any husband may present a petition to the District Court or to the High Court, praying that his marriage may be dissolved on the ground that his wife has been guilty of adultery,” the section reads. He said this was the sole provision that allowed a Christian couple to part. Zaka said this had made the lives of estranged Christian couples miserable as they were not even able to divorce with mutual consent.

He submitted that it was debacle that for the past more than 30 years not a single law has been passed for the protection of minorities/Christians and it has been over more than 145 years that the Divorce Act 1869 has not been reformed. He requested to declare the omission of Section 7 of Divorce Act 1869 unconstitutional.