ISLAMABAD: In a key development, the Islamabad administration has notified the rules for Hindu Marriage Act 2017 more than five years after its passage, allowing the members of the minority community to solemnise their marriage in line with established rituals.
The notification titled ‘Islamabad Capital Territory Hindu Marriage Rules 2023’ will pave way for the implementation of the marriage act passed in 2017 in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan as well.
An official of the ICT administration informed Dawn that the notification has been forwarded to all union councils of the federal territory for implementation.
As per the rules, relevant UCs in Islamabad will register a ‘Maharaj’ to solemnise marriages: the requirement for being a ‘Pundit’ or ‘Maharaj’ is that the person has to be a Hindu male with adequate knowledge of Hinduism.
However, ‘Maharaj’ will be appointed after the submission of a character certificate from the local police as well as with the written approval of at least 10 members of the Hindu community.
Similar to the case of the “registered nikah-khawan” for Muslims, respective UCs will issue “Shaadi Pert” (marriage certificate) to ‘Maharaj’ who would be registered with the relevant UC. All marriages would be registered at union councils as well.
According to the rules, a ‘Maharaj’ appointed under the marriage act would not take any money for officiating the marriage except for the fees mandated by the government. In case of the demise of a ‘Maharaj’ or cancellation of his licence, the marriage record kept by him would be submitted to the relevant UCs, which would be subsequently handed over to his successor.
Section 7 of the rules deals with cases related to the termination of marriages and remarriages. These rules also allow Hindus living in Islamabad to approach courts under the West Pakistan Family Courts Act 1964 in case of marriage disputes.
Mehfooz Piracha, district attorney for ICT who drafted the rules, told Dawn that the notification “is a major step” towards ensuring the rights of the minority community. He added that now Punjab, Balochistan, and KP can also adopt these rules.
“Politically and technically, it is easy for provinces to adopt the laws enacted in Islamabad rather than formulating new legislation for each jurisdiction,” Mr Piracha claimed.
The “key effort” for the approval of Hindu marriage rules has been made by a group called ‘National Lobbying Delegation for Minority Rights’ (NLD).
Jai Parkash, an NLD member, said that a large number of Hindus were permanently settled in Islamabad, and it was “essential” that the ICT administration implement this law retrospectively to benefit the local community.
It may be mentioned here that the Hindu community in Islamabad has grown significantly over the past decade due to migrations from Sindh, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa owing to security concerns.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2023