The Assam government wants to ban polygamy as "a component of the Uniform Civil Code" and will form a committee to examine whether the state legislature was empowered to prohibit the practice prevalent in parts of the state, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Tuesday.
The committee will examine the provisions of The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Act, 1937 read with Article 25 of the Constitution of India, vis-a-vis the directive principle of state policy, he said.
The chief minister said that the ban was not directed against any particular community but against all practising polygamy and "we will do this through consensus and not by force or aggression."
The expert committee, along with Islamic scholars and intellectuals, will examine the law and ”take us to the final goal of banning polygamy", Sarma told a press conference in Guwahati to mark the second anniversary of his government.
"We are not going towards Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for which a national consensus is required, and the Centre will take the initiative on that... We are announcing our intention to ban polygamy in the state as one component of the UCC," Sarma said.
The committee will engage in extensive discussions with all stakeholders, including legal experts, to arrive at a well-informed decision, he said.
'We want to stop a man, whether Hindu or Muslim, from marrying several times... We want to ban polygamy and declare it unconstitutional and illegal through legislative action.
”The expert committee will decide whether Assam assembly is competent to do it, whether the President's assent is required and also take the views of the various sections of the society," the chief minister said.
The committee is expected to submit its recommendations within six months and besides the legal aspect, it will also examine the religious as well as the personal aspect.
Polygamy is high in the three districts of Barak Valley and in the Central Assam areas of Hojai and Jamunamukh, Sarma said.
The rate of polygamy among the educated section, however, is very less and it is practically non-existent among the indigenous Muslim population, he said.
Sarma claimed that polygamy is not an essential part of Islamic law and even Prophet Mohammed had preferred monogamy.
During the crackdown against child marriage in the state, it was found that many elderly men got married multiple times and their wives were mostly young girls belonging to the poor section of the society, the chief minister said.
"We will further intensify the operation against the perpetrators of child marriage along with the ban on polygamy," he said.
He pointed out that polygamy is practised in some tribal communities of the state too, though now it may not be as a community but on an individual basis.
There are many cases where men have a first wife but as the law prohibits polygamy, they live with other women without marrying which is worse, Sarma said.
“De facto polygamy exists and the committee will also suggest ways to ban both formal and informal polygamy,” he added.
The number of arrests and filing of cases against child marriage perpetrators will be increased three-fold in the near future, he added.