Tribals to be exempted from Uniform Civil Code in Assam: CM Himanta | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

Tribals to be exempted from Uniform Civil Code in Assam: CM Himanta

By, Guwahati
Jan 12, 2024 04:15 AM IST

Himanta Sarma said that if public consultation on the UCC bill can happen in 2-3 months, it will be introduced soon in the Assam assembly.

Assam will be the third state in India to implement the uniform civil code (UCC) after Uttarakhand and Gujarat, but it will do so with modifications and exempt the tribal community, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Thursday, adding to the swirling speculation about the possibility of common customary laws across the country.

Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. (ANI)
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. (ANI)

At a press conference in Guwahati, Sarma reiterated his earlier pledge that Assam will implement UCC but added that its model will be different from that being tried in other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states.

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“Uttarakhand and Gujarat will bring UCC first and Assam will follow them with some new additions to those Bills, which will be an Assam model,” Sarma told reporters.

“I am waiting to see the UCC bill of Uttarakhand and once that is done, we will bring the same legislation; but since we are working against child marriages and polygamy, there will be some innovation to it. In Assam, the tribal community will be exempted from the ambit of UCC,” he added.

Also Read | Amit Shah hits back at Opposition on Uniform Civil Code, Article 370 attacks

Sarma said that if public consultation on the UCC bill can happen in 2-3 months, it will be introduced soon in the Assam assembly.

“But if it’s a little bit complicated, wider consultations will be needed. All will depend on the Uttarakhand and Gujarat Bills, but Assam will definitely be the third state (to implement UCC),” he said.

The decades-old demand for UCC is tied to India’s complex system of personal laws that are often tied to community based rules and customs, especially for religious minorities. A UCC, in theory, will implement homogenous rules for marriage, divorce, inheritance, financial compensation and adoption, among others, for all communities but many activists and experts fear that this may obliterate the customs and traditions of particular communities, such as tribals, and become a proxy to target their faiths.

In the Constitution, UCC is a part of the non-justiciable directive principles of state policy. In a 2018 consultation paper, the law commission said UCC was “neither necessary nor desirable at this stage”. Last year, the Law Commission again sought views and suggestions on UCC from the public and recognised religious organisations. Moreover, some states such as Uttarakhand set up panels to explore implementation of UCC.

Also Read | Delhi HC refuses to entertain pleas seeking UCC, cites SC observation

The issue got a fresh fillip in June last year, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to BJP booth workers and made a strong case for UCC. But almost immediately, several tribal communities in both central India and the Northeast started protesting. In August, a delegation from Nagaland government met Union home minister Amit Shah and later said it was reassured that those from the Scheduled Tribe (ST) would be exempted. A month later, the Nagaland assembly adopted an unanimous resolution to exempt the state from UCC.

Tribals form 12.45% of Assam’s population, according to the 2011 census. There are three autonomous district/territorial councils (which fall under Sixth Schedule of Constitution) and six autonomous councils for ST communities that are constituted for social, economic, ethic and cultural advancement.

States such as Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have set up committees to examine UCC.

Besides speaking on the UCC, Sarma said the state government is actively considering a bill against polygamy and it could be introduced during the assembly session next month. In May last year, the government had constituted a committee to examine the competence of the state legislature to formulate such a legislation. The committee submitted its report in August and gave the green signal for it, provided the legislation is cleared by the President.

Last year, the Assam government launched a campaign against child marriages. Under the first phase in February, the police registered more than 4,000 cases against those who married underage girls, families who allowed such marriages and priests who conducted them; thousands were arrested. During the second phase in October, around 1,000 people were arrested.

In the press conference, Sarma also attacked the Congress for announcing that its top leadership will skip the Ram Temple inauguration ceremony on January 22. “Whether knowingly or otherwise, Vishwa Hindu Parishad had given a golden opportunity to Congress leadership to atone for some of their sins committed against Hindu community ...But by not accepting the invitation, they have missed a golden opportunity,” Sarma said.

Replying to a query on whether Assam will grant permission for the Congress to go ahead with its Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in the state, Sarma said that his government will provide all necessary clearance. “We welcome anyone who comes as tourists to the state. Assam government has no objection to the programme, but the BJP might take some political measures,” Sarma stated.

The CM, however, added that the Guwahati leg of the march will have to bypass the state capital to avoid traffic congestion.

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    Utpal is a Senior Assistant Editor based in Guwahati. He covers seven states of North-East India and heads the editorial team for the region. He was previously based in Kathmandu, Dehradun and Delhi with Hindustan Times.

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