Ahead of UCC, Assam decides to repeal Muslim Marriages Act

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

February 24, 2024 10:40 am | Updated 03:27 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. | Photo Credit: ANI

Ahead of introducing a Uttarakhand-like bill on the Uniform Civil Code (UCC), the Assam government has decided to repeal the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act of 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.

Tourism Minister and government spokesperson, Jayanta Malla Baruah told journalists after the meeting that the decision to repeal the Act was made as the State is heading towards the UCC.

“The Chief Minister (Himanta Biswa Sarma) has been clear about the UCC. So, we took the very important decision to repeal Muslim Marriage and Divorce Registration Act, 1935,” he said.

“Muslim marriages and divorces will no longer be registered under this Act. We want all marriages to be registered under the Special Marriage Act,” Mr. Baruah said, adding the Act was being misused for marriages of minors.

“We felt it was an obsolete pre-Independence Act that has lost its relevance today and we believe its repeal will be a big step against child marriage,” he said.

The minister said district commissioners and district registrars will be authorised to take custody of registration records currently in the custody of 94 Muslim marriage registrars on the repeal of the legislation under the overall supervision, guidance, and control of the State’s Inspector General of Registration.

“A one-time compensation of ₹2 lakh will be provided to each Muslim marriage registrar for their rehabilitation after the Act is repealed,” Mr. Baruah said.

Also Read | Assam child marriages crackdown | Ratio of arrests of Muslims to Hindus is 55:45, says CM Himanta Biswa Sarma

Posting the Cabinet decisions on X, the Chief Minister said the provisions of the Muslim Marriages Act offer “scope for registering marriages of intended persons below 21 years (for males) and 18 years (for females) and there is hardly any monitoring for implementation of the Act”.

Among the other decisions made by the Cabinet was on protecting the land rights of the indigenous communities.

“For the protection of land rights of the indigenous communities, Ahom, Koch-Rajbongshi, and Gurkha communities are to be included in the list of protected classes of persons in the Balipara (north-central Assam) Tribal Belt who have been occupying the land prior to 2011,” the minutes of the meeting said.

“This will protect land rights of the indigenous communities who are bona fide Indian citizens,” it said.

The opposition Congress and the minority-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) criticised the State’s BJP-led government for targeting Muslims through the “unconstitutional step” of repealing the Act.

Congress MLA Abdur Rashid Mandal said the Cabinet nod for repealing the Act dealing with marriages and divorces of Muslims was a deliberate attempt to cater to Hindu sentiments at the expense of the Muslim community.

“The Assam government could not bring in any Bill on polygamy or the UCC. So, they have targeted this Act although the Cabinet does not have the right to repeal or amend a constitutional right,” AIUDF legislator Rafiqul Islam said.

“This is a policy to target Muslims ahead of the Lok Sabha elections,” he added.

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