Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also made an appeal on X, formerly known as Twitter, to the public to send their suggestions on the proposed law.
According to the public notice issued by the state’s home and political department, the last date for sending suggestions is August 30 through email to email@example.com or physical submission in the office of the principal secretary of the home and political department.
On August 6, the expert committee formed by the Assam government to examine the legislative competence of the state legislature to enact a law to end polygamy had submitted its report to the chief minister, who immediately announced that a legislation on the subject will be introduced within this financial year.
He had said the committee, led by the former judge of Gauhati HC, Rumi Kumari Phukan, unanimously agreed that the state can frame its own laws to end polygamy.
Sharing the executive summary of the report which says “the Indian Constitution grants the union and the states the authority to enact legislation on certain subjects…,” the public notice stated that “marriage falls under the Concurrent List”, enabling both the Centre and states to pass laws on it.
The report said the Doctrine of Repugnancy (Article 254) stipulates that if a state legislation contradicts a central legislation, the state law will be overridden unless it received the prior assent of the President of India.
Quoting the report, the notice mentioned that freedom of conscience and the right to practice religion under Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution are “not absolute and are subject to public order, morality, health and legislative provisions for social welfare and reform”.
The courts have clarified that religious practices must be essential and integral to the religion to receive protection, it added.
“With respect to Islam, the courts have held that having more than one wife is not an essential part of the religion. Legislation limiting the number of wives does not interfere with the right to practice religion and is within the scope of ‘social welfare and reform’. Hence, laws favouring monogamy do not violate Article 25,” said the notice, which referred to the expert committee’s report.
Based on these principles, the panel said the “State of Assam would have the legislative competence to enact a state legislature to end polygamy.”
The prevalence of the practice of polygamy, both formal and informal, was found to be high during the statewide crackdown on child marriages since January last. It was found that many elderly men married multiple times and their wives were mostly young girls belonging to the downtrodden sections of society.
Data shows that the prevalence of polygamy is less among the educated Muslims and does not exist at all among the native Muslims. The practice is highly prevalent in places like the Barak Valley, Hojai and Jamunamukh.
India is also a signatory to various international conventions and covenants viz. UN Committee on Civil and Political Rights, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women which note that polygamy violates the dignity of women and should be abolished wherever it continues to exist.
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