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LAHORE: Punjab Commission on Status of Women Chairperson Fauzia Waqar on Thursday requested the Lahore High Court to uphold an earlier decision by the court of restoring section 7 of Christian Divorce Act 1869, which enabled Christian men to divorce their spouses without using the charge of adultery.

Ms Waqar appeared before a division bench headed by Justice Ayesha A. Malik seized with an intra-court appeal (ICA) moved against a judgement passed by Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah last year.

She told the bench that with the restoration of section 7 of the Act, the Christian couples had been able to get separation without proving the charge of adultery. She further said it was against the dignity of women that men were falsely imputing the charge of adultery against their Christian wives in order to seek divorce.

She pointed out that the commission previously received many complaints from women against their husbands who falsely imputed the charge of adultery on them. The chairperson requested the division bench to dismiss the ICA and uphold the single bench’s judgement.

Advocate Sheraz Zaka, who was counsel for the petitioner in the impugned judgement, also argued that by the restoration of section 7 of Divorce Act other reasonable grounds were now available and men no longer needed to falsely impute the charge of adultery upon their wives in order to seek divorce from a court. He said the appeal should be dismissed and the judgement of the single bench upheld.

The section 7 of the Act was repealed by then military ruler Ziaul Haq through a presidential ordinance in 1981 leaving no ground for Christian men for divorcing their wives except on adultery charges.

A Christian man had filed a petition for the restoration of the section which the chief justice had allowed in June 2017.

Emanuel Francis, a Christian citizen from Faisalabad, later filed the ICA pleading that the impugned verdict of the chief justice was against the religious belief of Christianity. He further contended that a court could not restore a law once repealed by parliament.

During the hearing of the appeal, Justice Malik observed that the proceedings would be expedited as the case pertains to protection of fundamental right and has public importance. She further observed that the bench would decide the question of law whether a law repealed by parliament could be restored by court.

The bench adjourned proceedings for the second week of February and also sought assistance from the attorney general office.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2018