ISLAMABAD: President Mamnoon Hussain has given his formal assent to the Hindu Marriage Bill 2017, already passed by both the houses of parliament, aimed at protecting the marriages and the family and safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of the Hindu families living in Pakistan.

The Hindu marriage bill — the first personal law at the federal level to regulate the marriages of Hindus — will help Hindu women to get documentary proof of their marriage. The bill has now become an act of parliament after its signing by the president.

The law will be applicable in Islamabad Capital Territory and three provinces — Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — as the federal government had obtained resolutions from these provinces. Sindh has already formulated its own Hindu Marriage Law.

In a statement issued by the PM Office here on Sunday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the present government had always focused on provision of equal rights to minority communities living in Pakistan.

“They are as patriotic as any other community and, therefore, it is the responsibility of the state to provide equal protection to them,” he said.

Now the Hindu families will be able to solemnise marriages in accordance with the customary rites, rituals and ceremonies. The government will appoint marriage registrars in areas convenient for Hindu population for registration of their marriages.

The law provides for procedures relating to restitution of conjugal rights, judicial separation, void and voidable marriages, termination of Hindu marriage, financial security of wife and children, alternative relief in termination of marriage and termination of marriage by mutual consent.

The law also provides the right of separated person to marry again, entitlement of remarriage by a Hindu widow at her own will and consent after stipulated time, legitimacy of child born out of void and voidable Hindu marriage. The marriages solemnised before commencement of this law shall be deemed valid and petitions under this law shall be filed in family courts.

The law also provides for punishment of imprisonment and fine of up to Rs100,000 or both for contraventions.

All offences under this law shall be non-cognisable and non-compoundable and shall be tried by court of magistrate first class.

The National Assembly had passed the bill in September last year, but in February this year, the Senate approved it with an amendment, requiring the assembly to pass it again. The bill was again adopted by the National Assembly on March 9 with the inclusion of Shadi Parath — a document similar to Nikahnama.

The Shadi Parath, titled as ‘Schedule A’ in the bill, will be signed by a pundit and registered with the government department concerned. The simple document has eight columns starting with the date of marriage and followed by the name of the union council, tehsil, town and district.

The document has columns for particulars of the bridegroom — his name and father’s name (along with their CNIC numbers), date of birth, date and place where the marriage is solemnised, temporary address, etc. It also contains the matrimonial status — single, married, divorced, widower and number of dependents.

Similar details are required from the bride, except for one change. Her mother’s name will also be written in the document. Both the bride and the groom have to sign the document along with one witness and the registrar.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017