LAHORE: A Pakistani court has allowed Christian couples to divorce their partner without accusing each other of adultery, striking down a controversial provision of the law that prohibited the minority community to dissolve marriage on ordinary grounds.
The Lahore High Court yesterday struck down the provision and restored Section 7 of the Christian Divorce Act 1869, enabling Christian couples to approach a court for dissolution of marriage on other grounds.
LHC Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah announced the short order observing that Christian couples will now be able to end their marriage "in a dignified way" without accusing each other of adultery.
The section 7 of the Act was suspended in 1981 by then military ruler Ziaul Haq through an ordinance leaving no ground for Christian couples to divorce except leveling adultery charges.
Petitioner Amin Masih had approached the court last year for restoration of the section 7 saying he wanted to divorce his wife but without accusing her of adultery.
He pleaded that he wanted to divorce his wife to contract second marriage but he could not do so without accusing her of (fake) adultery.
"There is only one ground available under section 10 of the Christian Divorce Act 1869 and it is adultery, which is in conflict with the dignity of women,” he said.
His counsel argued in the court that section 7 of the Act should be restored according to which the principles of court’s of England would apply as far as family/divorce issues of Christians were concerned.
He said by the restoration of section 7 there will be other just and reasonable grounds available in order to seek a divorce by a Christian man.
He said in the UK, the Matrimonial Causes Act is now interpreted in a liberal manner providing a cushion to both Christian men and women to part their ways if marriage is an irretrievably broken down or with mutual consent but this ground is not available for Christians living in Pakistan.
"Since protection of minorities is one of the 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,” he pleaded.
The government law officer had argued that the divine laws could not be changed in the name of fundamental rights.