Plea to restore Section 7 of Christian Divorce Act
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday issued notices to federal and Punjab governments on a petition seeking restoration of Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act 1869 earlier omitted through an ordinance promulgated by then military ruler Gen Ziaul Haq in 1981.
Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah appointed a senior lawyer and rights activist Hina Jilani as amicus curie (friend of court) to seek her assistance in the case.
The judge also issued notices to Bishop of Pakistan Alexander John Malik and Lahore Bishop Irfan Jamil on the petition filed by a Christian man, Amin Masih.
Petitioner’s counsel Sheraz Zaka told the court that after the omission of section 7 of the Act the principles of English Divorce Court had been overshadowed and neglected which placed the entire statute to be administered in an ex-facie and discriminatory manner.
He said in the UK the Matrimonial Causes Act was now interpreted in a liberal manner providing a cushion to both Christian men and women to part their ways if marriage was an irretrievably broken down or with mutual consent, but this ground was not available in Pakistan for Christians.
The only ground available was in section 10 of the Act for Christian men to divorce their wives, which required the husband to accuse his wife of adultery, the counsel added.
Advocate Zaka argued that since the protection of minorities was one of the norms/salient features of Constitution of Pakistan, therefore the omission of section 7 of the Divorce Act 1869 through the ordinance should be declared unconstitutional as well as null and void. Justice Shah heard the arguments and issued notices to the respondents for Feb 18.