ISLAMABAD, July 27: The Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP) on Friday called for harsher punishment to discourage customs like child marriage, Vani and Swara in which women are given in marriage to settle vendetta.

The customs of Vani and Swara (mostly practised in the interior of Sindh and the NWFP require young girls to marry members of rival clans to resolve disputes) had attracted the attention of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry who, while dealing with a number of cases, had provided protection to such women and ordered punishment to people involved in the customs.

Presided over by the chief justice, the LJCP at its first meeting after Justice Iftikhar’s reinstatement to the office of top adjudicator by a 13-member Supreme Court bench, considered a number of laws — Majority Act 1875, Guardian and Wards Act 1890, Dowry and Bridal Gifts Act 1976, Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929 — and suggested amendments to them, including enhancement of punishments.

Dealing with the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, the commission recommended making the law more stringent to discourage child marriage and other social evils like Vani and Swara. “The unfortunate practice of giving women in consideration for settling vendetta is most regrettable and should be discouraged,” it said.

The commission recommended six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs25,000 to an adult man who married a minor girl. Those who help or facilitate child marriage, parents who agree to such marriage or those who violate court injunctions in this regard will face the same penalty.

On separating civil and criminal functions of courts, the commission recommended that such functional division should be carried out by chief justices of respective high courts and there was no need for a legislative change in this regard.

It expressed dismay over delay by authorities in considering and implementing the commission’s recommendations, saying its proposals should be given importance. “These law reform proposals are in public interest to improve the legal system and expedite trial proceedings in the courts to ensure prompt and speedy justice to the litigant public.”

The commission examined a discriminatory provision in the Majority Act, 1875, and recommended amendments to fix a uniform majority age of 18 years.

It also examined the Guardian and Wards Act, 1890, and suggested that the mother of a minor be brought at par with the father and when the mother was alive and not unfit, no other guardian should be appointed for her minor child.

The commission also noted the tendency of false, frivolous and vexatious litigation in the society and recommended suitable enhancement of the compensatory costs of Rs100,000 on party involved in frivolous cases by amending Section 250 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

It suggested fixing responsibility on state agencies like police, Federal Investigation Agency, Income Tax or the Narcotics Control Authority if they filed false and frivolous complaints. It suggested making mandatory the award of compensatory costs after a complaint was proved false.

Examining the Dowry and Bridal Gifts Act, 1976, the commission noted that the law did not serve requirements of present day society because it was abused and misused against the interest of women, despite there were certain restrictions on the value of dowry and bridal gifts to the bride.

It suggested involving the civil society for evolving a modern law that was effective and practicable.

The LJCP meeting was also attended by senior Supreme Court judge Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Chief Election Commissioner Qazi Muhammad Farooq, Federal Shariat Court Chief Justice Haziqul Khairi, Sindh High Court Chief Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed, Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Tariq Parvez, Justice (retd) Amirul Mulk Mengal, law secretary Mansoor Ahmed, National Commission on the Status of Women chairperson Dr Arfa Sayeda Zehra, Advocate Nasira Iqbal and LJCP secretary Dr Faqir Hussain.

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