Assam Cabinet gives nod to repeal Act in bid to end child marriage among Muslims

Guwahati: The Assam Cabinet has given the nod to repeal the Assam Muslim Marriages and Divorces Registration Act, 1935 in a bid to end child marriage, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

“This Act contained provisions allowing marriage registration even if the bride and groom had not reached the legal ages of 18 and 21 respectively, as required by law. This move marks another significant step towards prohibiting child marriages in Assam,” the Chief Minister posted on X.

The district commissioners and district registrars will be authorised to take “custody of registration records” currently with 94 Muslim Marriage Registrars on repeal of the legislation under overall supervision and control of the Assam Inspector General of Registration.

A one-time compensation of Rs two lakh will be provided to Muslim Marriage Registrars for their rehabilitation after the Act is repealed.

The decision to repeal the Act was taken at a late-night cabinet meeting on Friday as it is an obsolete pre-independence Act of the British for the then province of Assam, the CM said.

Registration of marriages and divorces is not mandatory as per the Act and the machinery of registration is informal, leaving a lot of scope for non-compliance with extant norms, he said.

It was pointed out at the meeting that as per the provisions of the Act, there remains scope for registering marriages of intended persons below 21 years for men and 18 years for women and there is hardly any monitoring for implementation of the Act.

The chief minister had earlier said that the state government was planning to bring a Bill to end polygamy.

An expert committee had submitted a report on the assembly’s competence to end polygamy following which 150 suggestions were received regarding the proposed Bill to end the social menace in the state. The chief minister had said that his government was in support of the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) but wants to ban polygamy immediately in the state.

The UCC is a matter which will be decided by Parliament but the state can also take a call with the assent of the President, he said.

The state government had launched a crackdown against child marriage in the state in two phases last year and it was found that many elderly men married multiple times and their wives were mostly young girls, belonging to the poor section of the society, Sarma had said earlier.

In the first phase in February last year, 3,483 people were arrested and 4,515 cases registered in February, while 915 people were arrested and 710 cases registered in the second phase in October last year.