GUWAHATI: Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday said the government has received 146 public suggestions in favour of and three against the proposed bill to ban polygamy in the state.
The government had issued a public notice seeking suggestions on the contentious bill from August 21 to 30 through email or by post.
Sarma wrote on X, “We have received a total of 149 suggestions in response to our public notice. Out of these, 146 suggestions are in favor of the bill, indicating strong public support. However, 3 organizations have expressed their opposition to the bill.”
He said the government will now proceed to the next stage of the process, which is to complete the final drafting of the bill in 45 days. Sarma had earlier announced that the bill will be introduced in the house within this financial year.
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 submitted in its report that “the Indian Constitution grants the union and the states the authority to enact legislation on certain subjects…”
Quoting the report, the public notice stated that “marriage falls under the Concurrent List” enabling both the Centre and states to pass laws on it. While seeking suggestions, the public 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”.
“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, referring to the report of the four-member expert committee headed by the former judge of Gauhati HC, Rumi Kumari Phukan.
Based on these principles, the expert panel said the “State of Assam would have the legislative competence to enact a state legislature to end polygamy.”
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