Approval of Hindu marriage bill deferred

Published July 6, 2015
A Pakistani Hindu couple during a marriage ceremony. -AFP/File
A Pakistani Hindu couple during a marriage ceremony. -AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights on Monday deferred the approval of ‘The Hindu Marriage Bill, 2015’ and ‘The Hindu Marriage Bill, 2014’ till July 13.

This was decided in the meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights headed by PML-N MNA Chaudhry Muhammad Bashir Virk, and was attended by its members and officials of the ministry of Law and Justice.

The Hindu Marriage Bill 2014, a private member bill was jointly moved last year by Ramesh Lal of PPP and Dr Darshan of Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) while The Hindu Marriage Bill 2015, a government bill was moved by Minister for Law Pervaiz Rashid in March, this year.

The two bills will establish rules and regulation for registration of marriage and divorce for Hindu Pakistanis, as currently in the absence of such a law, Hindus in the country do not have a legal document as proof of marriage.

Read: SC wants draft of Hindu marriage bill approved in 2 weeks

"The government wants to take credit as there is hardly any difference between the bill moved by me and the one moved by government," said Pakistan Peoples Party's Ramesh Lal.

He added they had moved the bill in March last year and it was pending before the concerned committee, whereas the government introduced its own bill this year.

Mr Lal said he had consulted elders and legal experts of the Hindu community on the draft prepared by the government and there were no major objections to it. “There are only a few minor issues which will be resolved soon,” he said.

A major difference between the two bills is the jurisdiction of the law. The federal government terms the Hindu marriage a provincial subject, while the draft of the government bill states that the law will apply only to Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

On the other hand, the private member bill states that the law will be applicable across the country.

“The Statement of Objects and Reasons” attached to the government bill states that “a large section of the Hindu community, particularly women, do not have basic documentation to prove their marital status or identity”.

“They are also deprived of legal rights such as inheritance, remarriage, separation, adoption of children and annulment of marriage. This legislation will institutionalise marriage and marriage-related legal rights thereof, this act is applicable to every person who is Hindu by his or her religion in any of its forms," says Lal.

Clause 5 of the private member bill outlines conditions for Hindu marriage, according to which the age of the groom and bride must be 18 years or above.

The legislation responds to a growing demand from Hindu Pakistanis and civil society organisations working for minority rights for rules and regulation to oversee Hindu marriages and divorce as Hindus in Pakistan are living without a marriage law for the last 67 years.

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