LAHORE - Setting aside the presidential ordinance of 1981 passed by former military ruler Ziaul Haq, the Lahore High Court yesterday reinstated a provision of Christian Divorce Act 1869 that allows Christian families to get divorces in a respectable way.

Former president Ziaul Haq had expunged Section 7 of Christian Divorce Act 1869 which required a spouse (husband) to allege adultery as grounds for divorce.

Amin Masih, a local resident, filed the petition through his counsel Advocate Sheraz Zaka and submitted that section 7of Christian Divorce Act 1869 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.

The petitioner through his counsel submitted that presently, there was only one ground available under section 10 of the Act and it was adultery, which was in conflict with the dignity of a woman. The Matrimonial Causes Act was now interpreted in a liberal manner in the United Kingdom which provided 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, he said.

The counsel contended that the Constitution of Pakistan provides protection to the minorities while Section 10 of the said Act was in clear violation of the Constitution. He prayed to the court to set aside Section 7 of the Divorce Act 1869 for being unconstitutional as well as null and void.

Advocate Hina Jillani assisted the court as amicus curie.

Hina Hafeezullah, the counsel of the federal government, contended that India had also changed the law facilitating the Christian community. She submitted that the language used in the section 7 of the Act was very offensive.

“In past many Christian men and women changed their religion to divorce each other with some honourably,” the law officer told the court.

Assistant Advocate General Anwar Hussain submitted that the provincial government had taken initiative for the amendment in the law but lack of consensus in Christian community leadership caused delay. He added that many countries had started the amendment process of the Christian divorce law since 1918.

After hearing both sides, Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah of LHC set aside Section 7 of Christian Divorce Act 1869 and enabled Christians to part their ways in a respectable way if their marriages were irretrievably broken down or with mutual consent.