Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma revealed on Thursday that an anti-polygamy law would be introduced in the upcoming winter session of the Assam state assembly.
However, he also mentioned that this legislation may not be necessary if a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is implemented at the national level.
Anticipating the potential political debate surrounding this move, Sarma directed his criticism at his political opponents by asking whether Congress leaders would marry off their daughters to someone who already has multiple wives.
What is polygamy?
Polygamy is a marital practice in which a person has multiple spouses simultaneously. It can involve polygyny (one man with multiple wives) or polyandry (one woman with multiple husbands).
Earlier in May, the Assam government, under the leadership of Sarma, established a four-member expert committee to examine the state legislature's authority to pass a law against polygamy. This committee, chaired by Justice (Retired) Rumi Phookan, was given a two-month deadline to submit its findings.
The committee consisted of other members such as Assam Advocate General Debajit Saikia, Additional Advocate General Nalin Kohli, and Senior Advocate Nekibur Zaman.
The Chief Minister made the committee's formation public through a Twitter announcement, stating, "Following my announcement to form an expert committee to examine the legislative competence of state legislature to enact a law to end polygamy, the state government has constituted the committee today....... The committee has been given a deadline of 60 days to submit its report."
Following my announcement to form an expert committee to examine the legislative competence of state legislature to enact a law to end polygamy, the state government has constituted the committee today. The committee comprises the following members:— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) May 11, 2023
1. Justice (Retired) Smt.…
Earlier, Sarma had expressed the state government's intentions to explore measures to outlaw polygamy and engage a panel of legal experts to examine its legality.
The committee's main objective was to analyse the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 in relation to the Directive Principles of State Policy for a Uniform Civil Code, as well as Article 25 of the Constitution, which grants Indian citizens the freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion.
Sarma clarified during a press conference on May 9, marking the completion of his government's two-year tenure, that the state was not heading towards implementing a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) without a national consensus. He assured that the central government would take the initiative in this regard.
Although the Chief Minister emphasised that the UCC is a broader issue, he announced his intention to ban polygamy in Assam as a step toward achieving a UCC. He declared, "We are announcing our intention to ban polygamy in the state as one component of the UCC."
The focus on the UCC has increased following Prime Minister Narendra Modi's strong advocacy for its implementation during a recent public event. The UCC aims to replace religion-specific laws with a uniform set of laws applicable to all citizens.
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