Assam Chief Minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, revealed that a bill seeking to outlaw polygamy will be introduced during the upcoming session of the Assam Assembly in February 2024. Addressing reporters in New Delhi, CM Sarma stated that the decision follows extensive consultations with various stakeholders, and the proposed legislation will address the practice of marrying multiple times within the state.
The Chief Minister emphasised that the bill, set to be presented on February 4, 2024, will not only prohibit polygamy but will also include specific provisions targeting the cessation of love jihad. This announcement comes in response to the BJP-led state government’s initiative to gather public feedback on the proposed law, which garnered a substantial response.
Having received 149 suggestions in total, the majority of 146 were in favour of the bill, indicating strong public support. However, three organisations expressed their opposition to the proposed legislation. To ensure the legal validity of the bill, the state government established a high-level committee, headed by the solicitor general of Assam. The committee engaged with various sections of society, including Muslim religious leaders, during its deliberations.
This move builds on the Assam government’s earlier directive on October 27th, wherein CM Himanta Biswa Sarma announced measures to curb polygamy among government employees. According to Sarma, second marriages when the spouse is alive will not be allowed without prior permission from the state government, even if permitted by certain religions. This enforcement aligns with existing rules that were not rigorously applied in the past but are now set to be strictly implemented.
CM Sarma articulated the reasoning behind this directive, stating, “As an Assam government employee, according to our service rules, one is not entitled to enter into a second marriage. Even if some religions allow it, permission must be obtained from the state government. This measure aims to prevent complications arising from pension disputes between two surviving wives after the employee’s demise.”
In tandem with the upcoming legislation, the Assam government issued a notification reiterating Rule 26 of the Assam Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1965. The rule explicitly prohibits government servants with a living spouse from contracting another marriage without obtaining prior permission from the government. The notification also extends this restriction to female government servants, emphasising the need for official consent before marrying a person with a living wife.
As Assam prepares for the legislative session in February, the proposed bill to outlaw polygamy reflects a concerted effort by the state government to address societal concerns and promote legal adherence in matrimonial matters.