March 15th, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
Three years after being passed, yet never implemented, the Punjab Sikh Marriage Act, landmark legislation that gives legal status to Sikh marriages, is now going to be amended.
A committee tasked to recommend the Rules of Business of the Sikh Marriage Act has instead recommended amendments to the Act in order to allay concerns and objections to the original act from community members.
According to Sardar Mahinder Pal Singh, Member of Punjab Assembly from the ruling Pakistan Tehrik Insaf, the Sikh Marriage Act was approved by the Punjab Assembly in 2018. However, due to objections and reservations expressed by the community, the rules of business of the said law could not be framed in the last three years, he said.
In July 2020, a six-member committee, headed by MPA Mahinder Pal Singh, was given the task to recommend RoB of the Sikh Marriage Act. Other committee members included Sardar Satwant Singh, head of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Gopal Singh Chawla, Ramesh Singh Arora, MPA from the PML-N, Giani Zail Singh and Giani Ranjeet Singh.
“Certain objections and concerns were raised about the Sikh Marriage Act by committee members,” he said. The committee recommended a draft amendment bill to address all objections to the Sikh Marriage Act, he added.
The draft recommendations were circulated to all government departments for their input and suggestions including the Local Government Department and the Law Department, MPA Mahinder Pal Singh said. The draft amendment bill has been sent to the Cabinet Committee on Law and Parliamentary Affairs. A sub-committee, headed by Higher Education Minister Raja Yasir Humayun, is presently reviewing the draft amendment bill, MPA Singh said.
The draft amendment bill on the Sikh Marriage Act will soon be sent for approval of the provincial cabinet, he added. After the nod from the cabinet, the amendment bill will be tabled in the provincial assembly for legislation. “Once, the amendment bill on the Sikh Marriage Act is approved by the provincial legislature, its implementation will not take long,” Singh said.
The PTI MPA pointed out that he had sent the committee’s draft recommendations to the Aqal Takht, the supreme religious body of the Sikhs, which gave its assent too.
‘Recommendations not shared
On the other hand, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora expressed his despair that the landmark legislation for Sikh marriages to be legally recognized in the province has not been implemented despite a passage of three years. Asked whether he was part of the committee formed by the government to recommend rules, Arora said he was invited to attend the committee’s meeting but could not do so in view of other engagements. He expressed his ignorance about recommendations forwarded by the committee, saying no recommendations were shared with him.
Arora said he will be able to comment on the draft amendments to the Sikh Marriage Act once the amendment bill is tabled in the provincial assembly. He expressed surprise at claims by the government of objections raised over the Sikh Marriage Act passed by the provincial assembly in 2018. “The government has not clarified what those objections are and by whom they were raised,” he told Voicepk.net. “It’s been three years, the government is dragging its feet on framing rules of business of the Sikh Marriage Act and now they are contemplating moving an amendment to the Act without the law having been implemented in the first place,” he said.
Sikh Marriage Act 2018
The Punjab Assembly approved The Punjab Sikh Anand Karaj Marriage Act 2018 on 14th March 2018. The bill was moved by a private member, Ramesh Singh Arora from the PML-N. The Punjab Governor gave his assent to the law on 19th March 2018.
The legislation sets an age limit of 18 years for the bride and groom for contracting a marriage in accordance with the Sikh religion. A Sikh marriage ceremony or Anand Karaj will be performed in accordance with the permitted practices of Sikhism and as prescribed by the central religious scripture. The law provides for the registration of Sikh marriages through Anand Karaj Registrar who will grant marriage certificates to Sikh couples.
Apart from legalizing Sikh marriages in the province, the bill also lays down guidelines for eligibility, rules for dissolution of marriage, and child support. Presently, the Gurudwaras in the country register Sikh marriages in absence of legislation.