The Islamabad Capital Administration has announced the Rules of the Hindu Marriage Act 2017 titled ‘Islamabad Capital Territory Hindu Marriage Rules 2023’ after more than five years since it came into force, Daily Dawn reported on April 7, 2023. This will enable members of the Hindu minority to perform their marriages in accordance with established rituals. The notification has been forwarded to all Union Councils in the federal territory for implementation. According to the rules, a ‘Maharaj’ will be appointed as an official to solemnise marriages. He must be a Hindu male and have sufficient knowledge of Hinduism.
The ‘Maharaj’ will be appointed after obtaining a character certificate from the local police and the written consent of at least 10 members of the Hindu community.
As per the rules, a ‘Maharaj’ appointed under the Marriage Act would not take any money for officiating the marriage except the fees prescribed by the government. In case of the demise of a ‘Maharaj’ or cancellation of his licence, the marriage register maintained by him would be submitted to the relevant UCs, who would then pass it on to his successor. Similar to the “registered nikah-khawan” for Muslims, the respective UCs will issue a “Shaadi Pert” (marriage certificate) to the ‘Maharaj’, which will be registered with the relevant UC. All marriages would be registered with the Union Councils. Section 7 of the rules governs cases related to termination of marriages and remarriages. These rules also enable Hindus living in Islamabad to approach the courts under the West Pakistan Family Courts Act 1964 in case of marriage disputes.
The rules have been hailed by the District Attorney for ICT, who drafted them, as an “important step” towards securing the rights of the minority community. The Hindu community in Islamabad has grown considerably in the last decade and this law will retroactively benefit them. The rules will now pave the way for its introduction in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. According to the expert, it is easier for the provinces to adopt the laws enacted in Islamabad than to formulate a new law for each jurisdiction.
According to Qindeel Shujaat- Executive Director Obun2, the implementation of the Hindu Marriage Act 2017 in Islamabad through the newly notified rules will have a positive impact in stopping child marriage in the Hindu community. The Act requires that both parties involved in the marriage be of legal age, i.e., 18 years or above. This means that child marriages are illegal under the Act. The Act also requires the presence of two witnesses during the marriage ceremony, which will ensure greater scrutiny of the process and make it difficult for child marriages to be carried out without detection. Additionally, the appointment of a ‘Maharaj’ to solemnise marriages means that there will be a designated official to oversee the process and ensure compliance with the Act. Overall, the implementation of the Act and the newly notified rules will provide a legal framework for Hindu marriages in Islamabad, which will help in preventing child marriages and protecting the rights of minors.