Uniform Civil Code
In a significant move, Assam is poised to become the third state in India, following Uttarakhand and Gujarat, to implement a Uniform Civil Code, as announced by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday. This decision aligns with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) longstanding agenda to establish a common set of laws governing marriage, divorce, succession, and adoption for all citizens, in an effort to promote equality and justice, particularly for women.
However, Chief Minister Sarma clarified that the proposed Uniform Civil Code would not be applicable to the tribal communities in the state, acknowledging concerns raised by these communities over potential infringements on their traditional way of life. This exemption reflects the state government’s commitment to preserving the cultural and social practices of Assam’s tribal population.
The concept of a Uniform Civil Code gained momentum after the Law Commission sought public opinions and views from religious groups in June. Prime Minister Narendra Modi further endorsed the idea, emphasizing the need for a unified legal framework. Several BJP-ruled states, including Uttarakhand and Gujarat, have taken steps towards its implementation.
In May, the Assam government formed a four-member committee to assess the legal implications of adopting a Uniform Civil Code. Chief Minister Sarma, in a press conference on Thursday, mentioned that Assam’s legislation would be modeled after the bills introduced in Uttarakhand and Gujarat, with certain modifications. The proposed bill aims to address issues like child marriage and polygamy, emphasizing its commitment to women’s rights.
Regarding the timeline for the implementation of the Uniform Civil Code in Assam, Sarma stated that the government would closely monitor the public consultation process initiated by Uttarakhand and Gujarat. If feasible, the administration aims to introduce the bill within two to three months after the bills from these states are presented.
The move to implement a Uniform Civil Code has faced resistance in some tribal-majority states in the North East, expressing concerns about potential interference in their cultural practices. Chief Minister Sarma’s assurance to exempt the tribal community from the proposed legislation is seen as a response to these concerns, highlighting the delicate balance between national legal reforms and the preservation of regional diversity.
As of December 25, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh declared that the draft of a Uniform Civil Code for the state is ready, awaiting submission to the state government by an expert committee. Similarly, on October 29, 2022, Gujarat Home Minister Harsh Sanghavi announced the formation of a committee for the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code in the state. Assam’s move signifies a broader trend toward legal uniformity and social equality, albeit with due consideration for regional sensitivities.
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