GUWAHATI: Moving a step closer to banning polygamy in the state, the Assam government on Monday unveiled a public notice, seeking the views of citizens on the proposed law to ban the practice.
Taking to a popular micro-blogging website, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma shared the public notice issued by the Principal Secretary of the Home and Political Department asking for public opinions to be shared via email or post by August 30.
Interestingly, the public notice mentioned the Concurrent List, which allows both state and central governments to make laws about marriage. If a state law clashes with a central one, it can only be valid with the President’s approval, it stated.
The announcement follows the formation of an expert committee that evaluated the state assembly’s legal capability to ban polygamy. This committee confirmed the competence of the state legislature to move forward with such a law.
In a poignant excerpt from the notice, citing court rulings, it was outlined that “having more than one wife is not an essential part of Islam.” This means that legislations promoting monogamy don’t infringe on the right to practice religion and can be viewed as measures for “social welfare and reform.”
Earlier on August 6, the expert committee, led by Justice (Retd) Rumi Kumari Phukan, presented their findings to the Chief Minister, who was quick to affirm that legislation on the matter would be introduced within the financial year.
The committee comprised of eminent legal minds including the state’s Advocate General Devajit Saikia, Senior Additional Advocate General Nalin Kohli, and senior Advocate Nekibur Zaman. Their mandate was to juxtapose the provisions of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Act, 1937 against Article 25, especially in the context of the Uniform Civil Code’s Directive Principles of State Policy.
In his Independence Day address, Sarma reaffirmed his commitment to enacting a “strict act” to halt polygamy in the state, a stance he’d previously voiced in May and July.
However, the Opposition has critiqued the government’s focus on polygamy, labelling it as a “diversionary” and “communal” tactic amid ongoing discussions on the Uniform Civil Code by the Law Commission.