Landmark Judgment On Divorce Among Christian Couples
Even though different sects of Christianity see dissolution of marriage in a different light, the consensus of Christian belief revolves around the view that marriage is a lifetime relationship not to be severed by human action and that the basis of divorce can only be on two grounds: (i) sexual immorality (Mathew 5:32; 19:9) and (ii) abandonment by an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:15). However, with the universal acceptability of divorce in the last century along with the passage of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other conventions, the occurrence of divorce in Christians has widened due to circumstances where even sexual immorality or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse is not involved.
Against this backdrop, a petition was filed through Advocate Sheraz Zaka in the Lahore High Court where a Christian petitioner sought divorce without subjecting his wife to be guilty of any immorality or adultery. One of the pertinent questions addressed by the Honourable Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah was: under what circumstances could divorce between a Christian couple be allowed under the Divorce Act 1869 (applicable to Christians only)?
One major question of law to be decided in the case was that whether the omission of Section 7 of the Divorce Act 1869 during the Zia era was unconstitutional and violative of the fundamental rights of the petitioner. This section had allowed the Christian community to seek relief in divorce cases on principles and rules which were being implemented at the time in the English Courts.
To this end, the Honourable Chief Justice explored the Constitution of Pakistan, the divorce laws in the Christian world as well as the declarations and conventions of the United Nations to reach the following conclusion:
“Grounds of divorce on the basis of adultery are available and anyone who wishes to invoke them is free to do so, but for those who wish to seek divorce on the ground of irretrievable breakdown of marriage, they can rely on section 7 of the Act and avail of the additional grounds of divorce available under the Matrimonial Causes Act, 1973 (UK), which will be available to the Christians in Pakistan and will be enforceable in Pakistan.”
The judgment in this regard is a landmark judgment not only because it gives relief to Christians in Pakistan to reshape their lives if stuck in a non-workable marriage, without alleging adultery on their partners, but also because divorce is now widely accepted and practised in the Christian world and is also in accordance with the rights and guarantees enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan as well as international conventions.
The complete judgment can be found at: http://sys.lhc.gov.pk/appjudgments/2017LHC2488.pdf
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any other organization with which he might be associated.