Breach of guidelines to curb child marriage LHC orders action against nikah registrar

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LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has taken notice of non implementation of its guidelines to curb child marriage by the nikah/marriage registrars. Justice Anwarul Haq Pannun observed that apparently, the marriage registrars, without relying upon any document, mention the age of the bride as 18 years or above in clear violation of the law. In a verdict issued on a habeas corpus petition by a woman seeking recovery of her underage daughter from the custody of her husband, the judge noted that directions issued by the LHC in a 2023 judgement and the SOPs formed by the local government of Punjab are still not being followed by the nikah registrars to eliminate violation of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929.

In the case in hand, the judge said the birth registration certificate issued by the union council concerned regarding the age of the alleged detainee produced before the court revealed 15-and half-year of age. Therefore, the judge referred the matter to the deputy director local government and community development of Gujranwala for getting initiated proceedings against the delinquent marriage registrar in the light of the 2023 judgement for violating the law.

Petitioner Azmat Bibi alleged that her daughter was not legally major to contract marriage. She stated that her daughter had been kidnapped by a man namely Muhammad Qasim and forced into the illegal marriage. On the court’s direction, Sheikhupura police recovered the alleged detained girl, Neha, from the house of her husband.

When produced in the court on May 9, the girl denied the charges of kidnapping and said she wanted to live with her husband, Qasim, who was also present in the court. Justice Pannun dismissed the petition and allowed the girl to go wherever she desired.

In the last year judgement, the judge had ordered the Punjab police, the prosecutor general and the local government to develop a better coordination to enforce the law against the child marriage. Under the law, the marriage of a male child under 18 years of age and a female under 16 years of age is a cognisable offence.

However, a judgement Justice Shahid Karim of the LHC passed last month, ordered the Punjab government to end the age based discrimination between both genders and increase the minimum age of marriage for a girl to 18 years.

Acknowledgement: Published in Dawn News on 12th May 2024.
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