Assam Cabinet Repeals Muslim Marriage Act

It is significant that Muslims make up about 34 per cent of Assam's total population

Guwahati: In what is alleged to be an attempt to create Hindu-Muslim polarisation ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, the Assam Cabinet on Saturday approved the repeal of the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act 1935.

The state Cabinet, which met late on Friday night, approved the Assam Repealing Ordinance 2024 for repealing the British-era marriage and divorce Act specific to Muslims.

The state government spokesperson and minister Jayanta Malla Baruah told the media that the repeal is aimed at ending child marriages in the state. He said: “The Assam Cabinet on Friday decided to repeal the age-old Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act. This act contained provisions allowing marriage registration even if the bride and groom had not reached the legal ages of 18 and 21, as required by law.”

Asserting that the move is also a step towards implementing the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state, Mr Baruah said, “The law currently provides the facility of voluntary registration of Muslim marriages and divorces. It also authorised the government to provide licences to Muslim people (marriage registrars) to register marriages and divorces. After the law is repealed, they (Muslim marriage registrars) won't be able to register marriages and divorces.”

After repealing the law, the Assam minister said that district commissioners and district registrars will take custody of registration records held by 94 Muslim marriage registrars.

It is significant that Muslims make up about 34 per cent of Assam’s total population. A total of 94 registrars were empowered under the now-repealed Act to register a marriage or divorce. The Assam government said that the Special Marriage Act will now apply.

The government will provide one-time compensation of '2 lakhs each to Muslim marriage registrars for their rehabilitation after the Act is repealed.

Mr Baruah said the Assam government wants all such marriages to be registered under the Special Marriage Act. He regretted that the Act now proposed for repeal was also used to register the marriages of underage boys and girls.

Pointing out that the state government led by chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is committed to bringing the UCC, Mr Baruah reiterated that the government will ban polygamy in the state.

The Assam government's move to repeal the Muslim Marriage Act has sparked a debate, with the Opposition leaders criticising the BJP government and accusing them of trying to create a communal polarisation ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Denouncing it as an anti-Muslim step of the government, Congress MLA Abdur Rashid Mandal called the Himanta Biswa Sarma government "absolutely an anti-Muslim government" and stated that "they were trying to show the Hindu people that they are favouring them and depriving the Muslims."

All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) leader Rafiqul Islam said that the state government "did not have the courage" to bring a UCC in the state and alleged that it was "targeting" Muslims.

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