M A I N   N E W S

Sikhs move a step closer to separate marriage law
Aditi Tandon/TNS

Just the beginning

Congress Gurdaspur MP Partap Singh Bajwa raised technical glitches in the new Bill and said separate personal laws alone would help Sikhs
He said the current amendment simply validates the Sikh ritual of ‘Anand Karaj’ and doesn’t provide for divorces
Akali Dal Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal said the Bill would secure Sikh identity to an extent, but will remain incomplete until Article 25 is amended and Sikhs granted identity as a separate religion
Hindus, Christians, Parsis and Muslims have their own personal laws

New Delhi, May 22
The Sikh dream of a separate register of marriages within the community is all set to be realised with Parliament today passing the long-pending amendment to the Anand Karaj Act 1909 that does not provide for such registrations. Once the President assents to the Bill, it will become a law, allowing the Centre to direct states to maintain separate registers of marriages for Sikhs and designate separate bodies to register such weddings.

A day after the Rajya Sabha unanimously passed the Anand Karaj Amendment Bill, 2012 (which inserts in the old Act a clause allowing registration of Sikh marriages solemnised under the ‘Anand Karaj’ ritual), the Lok Sabha also approved the draft legislation with a voice vote. The Cabinet had earlier cleared the legislation, which lacks a provision for divorce.

Law Minister Salman Khurshid described the passage of the Bill by the two Houses in a record time of two days as a significant step forward for the Sikhs. “This is a very significant step. I know we have delayed the Bill but I am happy we have passed it. The passage sends a symbolic message to all citizens of India that their aspirations would be regarded.”

Only last August, Khurshid had told Parliament that the Centre had decided to drop the proposal to allow a separate marriage registration law for Sikhs. He had justified the move saying it would trigger similar demands from other religions covered under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955. So far, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists are required to register marriages under the Hindu law.

For the Sikhs, today’s move is just the beginning of a long struggle for separate personal laws. The only Sikh MP who raised this matter today was Congress Gurdaspur MP Partap Singh Bajwa. He demanded separate personal laws for Sikhs and said the current amendment would only lead to further complications.

“This is a technical amendment and is confined to marriage registration. It simply validates the Sikh ritual of ‘Anand Karaj’ and doesn’t provide for divorces. It won’t help NRIs. It will complicate matters as foreigners won’t be able to understand the meaning of Anand Karaj.

If the Centre is serious about helping Sikhs, it must enact separate personal laws for them. Such laws should cover marriages, divorces, maintenance and succession, adoption and guardianship issues. That would result in real benefit to the community,” Bajwa said. Hindus, Christians, Parsis and Muslims have their own personal laws, he added. The Tribune has been stating how the Anand Karaj Amendment Act is incomplete without a provision for divorce.

Bajwa apart, other Sikh MPs - starting from Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Badal, Sher Singh Gubaya and Paramjit Gulshan to Congress’ Ravneet Bittu - supported the amendment, calling it historic and saying that it would fulfill a long standing demand of the community.

The Akali Dal reiterated its demand of amendment to Article 25 of the Constitution that defines Sikhs as Hindus for the purposes of opening up places of worship to people from all communities. The Constitution Review Commissionset up during the NDA regime had recommended changes to the said Article that defines Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains as Hindus.

Akali Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal, while initiating the debate on the Bill today, said, “For the Sikhs, separate identity is an emotional and religious issue. It is not political. This amendment will help 3 million NRI women who routinely face problems on account of lack of a separate law to register Sikh marriages. It will secure the Sikh identity to an extent. But it will remain incomplete until Article 25 of the Constitution is amended and Sikhs granted identity as a separate religion that it is.”





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