Assam Government Makes Decision to Abolish Muslim Marriage and Divorce Law, CM Asserts It Will Halt Child Marriages

In a significant move aimed at curbing child marriages within the state, the Assam government has decided to repeal the Assam Muslim Marriage and Divorce Registration Act, 1935. This decision was made during a late-night cabinet meeting held on Friday. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, in a social media post, shared that on February 23, the Assam cabinet took a crucial decision to withdraw the decades-old law. He highlighted that the law contained provisions allowing the registration of marriages even if the bride and groom were below the legal age of marriage, which is 18 for girls and 21 for boys, marking a significant step towards eliminating child marriages in Assam.

Following the abolition of the law, the Assam government has announced that Muslim marriages will now be registered under the Special Marriage Act by district commissioners and district registrars, a responsibility previously held by 94 Muslim marriage registrars. The government has also declared that these registrars will be removed from their positions and compensated with a one-time payment of INR 200,000 each. The move to repeal the law is grounded in the argument that it dates back to the British colonial era and was causing oversight of regulations, thereby failing to monitor and prevent child marriages effectively.

With the law now repealed, the state will see significant changes in the registration process of Muslim marriages and divorces, which were not mandatory under the previous law. The registration process was informal, leading to neglect of rules and lack of monitoring for child marriages. The government’s decision to revoke the law is also seen as a step towards implementing a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in the state, as stated by Assam government minister Jayant Malla Barua.

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In response to the government’s decision, All India United Democratic Front leader Maulana Badruddin Ajmal has expressed opposition, arguing that the issue of polygamy is not exclusive to Muslims but exists in several other communities as well. Thus, targeting only Muslims is deemed unfair. The Assam government is also considering enacting a law against child marriage. CM Himanta Biswa Sarma has clarified his stance on the matter, stating that by 2026, the state plans to introduce legislation against child marriage, with provisions to increase the punishment from two to ten years for those involved in child marriages.

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