ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court ordered the federal government on Tuesday to ensure that the draft of the proposed Hindu Marriage Registration Bill was laid before the cabinet for final approval in two weeks.
The directions were issued when the attention of a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, was drawn to the issue by Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. The court had taken up a case relating to the implementation of a set of guidelines handed down in a June 19 judgment on minority rights.
The issue relating to the absence of a Hindu marriage registration law has been highlighted before the Supreme Court more than once. In 2012, a bench headed by then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had taken up a similar issue over a newspaper column that pointed out problems faced by Hindus living in Pakistan in obtaining Computerised National Identity Cards and passports.
Due to the absence of the law, Hindu couples faced difficulties in getting their marriages registered as per Hindu customs.
Sometimes, they had to grease the palms of the officials concerned to obtain the documents, which it was their legal right to possess.
During Tuesday’s proceedings, a National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) representative told the court that it was facing problems in the registration of marriage certificates from Sindh, where most of the country’s Hindu population resides.
Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt was then asked to ensure that cabinet approves the bill on the registration of Hindu marriages.
PML-N minority MNA asks court to order Hindu girls living in Karachi shelters to return to their families
Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered the minority representatives, including Dr Vankwani – who is a sitting PML-N MNA from Tharparkar – to meet and apprise the four chief ministers, provincial chief secretaries and inspectors general of police about their problems.
Dr Vankwani also asked the Supreme Court to order the return of two Hindu girls, Kiran and Anjali aged 14 and 15 respectively, who had been living in a shelter in Karachi. Both girls could decide whether to live with their parents or their husbands after reaching the age of 18, he said.
But the Sindh police told the court that the Sindh High Court was hearing the matter of Anjali, whose husband Riaz was in jail. Anjali had also recorded a statement where she had expressed a desire to live with her husband.
The Hindu community has repeatedly raised concerns and said that young girls from their community were being abducted, forced to convert in order to be married off to Muslim men.
In 2012 too, the Supreme Court had witnessed a similar situation when controversial marriages of three young women from interior Sindh were taken up by the bench.
Then the issue revolved around Aasha Devi, the 19-year-old Rinkal Kumari of Mirpur Mathelo (now known as Faryal Bibi), and 30-year-old Dr Lata Kumari of Jacobabad (now known as Hafsa).
On Tuesday, Sindh Advocate General Fateh Malik told the court that the provincial government had devised a law for increasing the job quota in government jobs for minorities to five per cent. But Dr Vankwani lamented that though the law had been made it was not being implemented in letter and spirit.
The court was also told that the Sindh government was also holding a meeting on Thursday to discuss the issues being faced by the Hindu community in Sindh.
After the hearing, Dr Vankwani told reporters that as per directions of the Supreme Court, he would meet the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Jan 19 to discuss matters relating to the protection of holy places, including the Smadhi of Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj.
The Supreme Court will take up the matter again on Feb 11.
Published in Dawn January 14th , 2015