SC suspends PHC verdict to add minority’s column in Census form

Islamabad

Supreme Court of Pakistan Monday suspended the Peshawar High Court (PHC) verdict regarding inclusion of separate column for Sikh community in census forms. The bench observed that the census phase in 63 district was about to complete and it was impossible to bring changes in census forms at this stage.
A three members bench of SC headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar heard an appeal challenging the PHC verdict to include separate column for Sikh community. During the course of proceeding, Chief Commissioner Census informed the court that column was neither included in past nor in recent census form.
On which, the bench asked if it was not done in the past, whether it would not be added now? Justice Nisar asked whether there was any possibility to add a special column for Sikh community at this point?
Chief Commissioner Census stated that the Sikh community was 0.003 percent of total papulation in 1981. He said that at this stage it was not possible to add a further column in census data collection form. After hearing the arguments, the court suspended the PHC order to include a column for Sikh community in Census form and adjourned the case for indefinite time. The court also set aside the verdicts of Sindh and Peshawar High Courts regarding the inclusion of minorities’ column in census form.
INP Adds: Chief Justice Saqib Nisar said that the first phase of census is completed in more than half of the districts of the country. ‘It would now not be possible to print new forms,’ he said. ‘The forms are in machine readable form, therefore, the section cannot even be made manually as the machine will not recognise them.’ The court ruled that census cannot take place in areas where it has been completed. The census form does not have a box for Sikhs to mark their religion, though there is one for Hindus and Christians.
A Sikh community leader had filed a petition in the Sindh High Court, demanding inclusion of Sikhism in the religion column in the census form. The divisional bench in SHC heard the case on March 21 and sent notices to the chief census commissioner and provincial census commissioner to submit their response.
Talking to a private TV channel, a Sikh community leader, Advocate Heera Singh Khalsa, said he filed the case on the basis of article 25-1 that says all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law. There is a sizeable non-Muslim population in Pakistan, but the printed form only identifies five religions. The rest have been clubbed into the category of ‘Others.’—INP

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