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Assam to bring UCC law through ‘front door’: CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

Daulat Rahman/Guwahati

After Uttarakhand, Assam may become the second state to have a law on the Uniform Civil Code. This was evident as Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma asserted in the Assembly that his government would bring the UCC through the “front door.” He however clarified that the UCC does not deal with traditional practices and rituals.

Replying to a debate on ‘Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024’, Sarma claimed that the government was only trying to curb practices conducted by individuals with malicious intent.

“The UCC in Uttarakhand deals with four points – preventing underage marriage, banning polygamy, inheritance laws, and registration of live-in relationships. The UCC does not deal with traditional rituals or practices,” the CM said.

The Uttarakhand Assembly had on February 7 passed a Bill that seeks to impose uniform rules on marriage, divorce, inheritances, and live-in relationships for all communities barring the Scheduled Tribes.

Last month Sarma said that Assam will be the third state after Uttarakhand and Gujarat to introduce a Bill seeking the UCC and it would exempt the tribal communities from its ambit.

“We will bring the UCC and we will bring it through the front door,” Sarma asserted, reacting to leader of opposition Debabrata Saikia’s question if the proposed legislation on healing practices is a tactic to bring in the UCC by the ‘back door’.

The Bill, which was later passed by a voice vote, seeks to eradicate non-scientific healing practices and make ‘magical healing’ by any person with sinister motive a cognizable and non-bailable offense, with imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to ₹ one lakh.

Sarma, referring to a ruckus created by opposition parties earlier in the House over the state Cabinet’s decision to repeal the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act, 1935, said he was saddened at the stance taken by them over such a sensitive issue as child marriage.

“Do the Congress, AIUDF support marriages of five-six year-olds? Can’t we be unanimous in one matter that legalises marriages of only girls over 18 years and boys above 21 years of age? Legislations which promote child marriage should be banned,” the CM claimed.

On the opposition’s objections to the ‘Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024’, Sarma maintained that a similar law in the form of Centre’s ‘The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954’ was already in place.

“It was passed when the late Jawaharlal Nehru was the prime minister. We haven’t taken Nehru’s extremist view and banned everything like talisman, mantra, and kavach,” chief minister Sarma said.

Sarma claimed that the state government has refrained from implementing the Central Act as it will get in the way of traditional systems, especially prevalent among tribal communities of the state.

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“The simple design of our bill is not to prevent anyone from their traditional practices, but we stop anything done with ulterior motives,” Sarma said.

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