“Ending Polygamy: Assam’s Step towards Women’s Empowerment”

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Assam's Step towards Women's Empowerment
Assam’s Step towards Women’s Empowerment.

Assam Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, announced on Sunday that a Bill aimed at ending polygamy will be introduced within the current financial year, following the submission of a report by an expert committee on the state’s competence to frame such laws.

During a press conference, Chief Minister Sarma stated that the committee unanimously agreed that the state has the authority to enact laws against polygamy. The panel recommended that the President’s assent be sought for the Bill, instead of the Governor’s approval.

Highlighting the absence of age specifications in Muslim law, the committee suggested aligning the proposed state legislation with the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to address any discrepancies.

When asked about the timeline for the Bill’s introduction, the Chief Minister assured that it will be brought in during the current financial year. The actual session for introducing the Bill (September, December, or Budget session) will be determined after due deliberation in the Cabinet meeting.

Addressing concerns about the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), Chief Minister Sarma stated that if the UCC is implemented before the proposed polygamy law, the scenario may change accordingly.

Regarding seeking opinions from civil society organizations, the Chief Minister emphasized that there may not be a significant need, as all communities, including Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist, have reportedly welcomed the initiative. However, if deemed necessary, opinions of stakeholders will be considered in the future.

The opposition parties had criticized the government’s move, considering it diversionary and communal, especially when the Law Commission is receiving suggestions on the UCC.

The four-member expert committee, led by Justice (Retd) Rumi Kumari Phukan, submitted its report to the Chief Minister. Assam’s aim is to create a positive ecosystem for women’s empowerment, irrespective of caste, creed, or religion.

It is important to note that on July 13, Chief Minister Sarma expressed support for the UCC and sought an immediate ban on polygamy in the state. While the UCC remains a matter to be decided by Parliament, Assam has the prerogative to act with the President’s assent.

The expert committee, which was given an extended deadline, analyzed the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Act, 1937, and Article 25 of the Constitution concerning the Directive Principles of State Policy for a Uniform Civil Code.

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