Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday claimed that there is a “strong public support” for the proposed bill to ban polygamy in the state.
The Assam government had issued a notice on August 21 seeking public opinion on the proposed law. The government had requested the public to send their opinion by August 30 through e-mail or by post.
“We have received a total of 149 suggestions in response to our public notice,” the chief minister wrote on X, formerly called Twitter. “Out of these, 146 suggestions are in favor of the bill, indicating strong public support. However, 3 organisations have expressed their opposition to the bill.”
The chief minister said that his government will now proceed to prepare a final draft of the proposed bill within the next 45 days.
Polygamy – the practice of having more than one wife – is allowed in Muslim personal laws. The practice was banned among Hindus in the 1950s through the Hindu Code Bill, which also regulates aspects such as inheritance, adoption, marriage and divorce. This law is often used as a justification by the Hindutva bodies to introduce a Uniform Civil Code.
A Uniform Civil Code has been on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s agenda for long and several states ruled by the party have been making advances towards introducing a common set of personal laws for people from all religions.
In May, the Assam government had constituted a four-member committee to examine the legality of the move to introduce the bill to ban polygamy. The committee was chaired by retired Gauhati High Court judge Justice Rumi Phukan and had Assam Advocate General Debajit Saikia, Assam Additional Advocate General Nalin Kohli and Gauhati High Court advocate Nekibur Zaman as its members.
Last month, Sarma had said that the committee had unanimously said that the state government has the right to frame laws on polygamy. He had added that his government would try to table the bill in the Budget Session of the Assembly in 2023.
“We will need to give time to MLAs to discuss and debate the issue,” he had said. “But it is sure that the law will come into effect within the existing financial year.”