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Assam to bring UCC through 'front door', says Himanta

Replying to a discussion on ‘Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024’, Sarma claimed that the government was only trying to curb practices conducted by individuals with malicious intent.

Assam to bring UCC through front door, says Himanta

Himanta Biswa Sarma (PTI) 

GUWAHATI: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday asserted in the Assembly that his government will bring the Uniform Civil Code through the "front door", while maintaining that the UCC does not deal with traditional practices and rituals.

Replying to a discussion on ‘Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024’, Sarma claimed that the government was only trying to curb practices conducted by individuals with malicious intent.

“The UCC is in Uttarakhand now. The UCC deals with four points – preventing underage marriage, banning polygamy, inheritance laws and registration of live-in relationships. The UCC does not deal with traditional rituals or practices,” the CM said.

The Uttarakhand Assembly had on February 7 passed a Bill that seeks to impose uniform rules on marriage, divorce, inheritances and live-in relationships for all communities — except the Scheduled Tribes.

Sarma had said last month that Assam will be the third state after Uttarakhand and Gujarat to introduce a Bill seeking the UCC and it would exempt the tribal communities from the ambit of the law.

“We will bring the UCC and we will bring it through the front door,” Sarma asserted, reacting to leader of opposition Debabrata Saikia’s question during the discussion if the proposed legislation on healing practices a tactic to bring in the UCC by the ‘back door’.

The Bill, which was later passed by a voice vote, seeks to eradicate non-scientific healing practices and making ‘magical healing’ by any person with sinister motive a cognizable and non-bailable offence, with imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to Rs one lakh.

Sarma, referring to a ruckus created by opposition parties earlier in the House over the state Cabinet’s decision to repeal the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act, 1935, said he was saddened at the stance taken by them over such a sensitive issue as child marriage.

“Should the Congress, AIUDF support marriages of five-six year-olds? Can’t we be unanimous in one matter that legalises marriages of only girls over 18 years and boys above 21 years of age? Legislations which promote child marriage should be banned,” the CM claimed.

The Act of 1935 contained provisions allowing marriage registration even if the bride and groom had not reached the legal ages of 18 and 21, as required by law.

On the opposition’s objections to the ‘Assam Healing (Prevention of Evil) Practices Bill, 2024’, Sarma maintained that a similar law in the form of Centre’s ‘The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954’ was already in place.

“It was passed when the late Jawaharlal Nehru was the prime minister. We haven’t taken Nehru’s extremist view and banned everything like talisman, mantra, and kavach,” he said.

The CM claimed that the state government has refrained from implementing the Central Act as it will get in the way of traditional systems, especially prevalent among tribal communities of the state.

“The simple design of our bill is not to prevent anyone from their traditional practices, but we stop anything done with ulterior motives,” he added.

The Congress and AIUDF, which had moved amendments to the bill for defining evil practices and whether it would disturb traditional systems, agreed to withdraw their amendments following the reply from the chief minister.

Independent MLA Akhil Gogoi, who had also moved amendments to the bill, however, did not withdraw his objection that the definition of ‘evil practice’ was not mentioned specifically in the Bill.

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