This proposed law, a brainchild of Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, trumps a new marriage law to tackle the menace of ‘love jihad’ enacted by Uttar Pradesh and a similar one proposed by Madhya Pradesh.
That’s because Assam’s proposed legislation is religion-neutral and professes to safeguard the interests of women, thus being better in law than Uttar Pradesh’s anti-‘love jihad’ law.
Sarma said that a month before marriage, both bride and groom have to disclose their educational qualifications, incomes and religion not only to each other, but also to the government.
“This will bring an end to girls getting duped into marriages by false promises and misrepresentations by cheats and fraudsters,” said Sarma.
He said there have been many instances of young and gullible girls being tricked into marriage by boys and young men claiming to be what they are not.
“Once such a marriage is solemnised, a duped girl is trapped in it and finds escape very difficult. The proposed law will impose a heavy penalty on men who misrepresent their incomes, educational qualifications and faith to marry innocent girls,” explained Sarma.
The proposed law will apply to arranged marriages as well since even in such marriages, there have been cases of one of the parties resorting to misrepresentations and falsehoods.
“This proposed law has nothing to do with ‘love jihad’ and applies to all communities. Transparency and full disclosure in any civil union is important and this law aims at that,” said Sarma.
The minister said that a proforma will be given to both the groom and the bride and each party will have to fill it up and give it to each other a month before a proposed marriage.
Both the parties will also have to deposit a copy of the filled-in proforma to a designated government officer or a marriage officer.
In case any fraud or misrepresentation is detected by any party (husband or wife) after marriage, or by the government, the guilty person will be strongly penalised.
Legal experts say that unlike UP’s law against ‘love jihad’, courts can find no fault with Assam’s proposed legislation.
“This will be good in law. No court can have any objection to the need to protect a woman or a man from being duped by an unscrupulous man or woman (respectively). Since this will be the purpose of the new law, it will easily pass judicial scrutiny,” said constitutional lawyer Pradip Tamuli.
Nishikant Dubey, a senior advocate who practises in the Supreme Court, said that Assam’s proposed law is an intelligent attempt to address the menace of ‘love jihad’ without overtly appearing to be so.
“There will be little ground to mount a legal challenge to this proposed law. No one can, after all, have any quarrel with transparency in a prospective marriage. And since it is community-neutral and also involves disclosure of educational qualifications, family background, employment and income, Assam’s law will be superior to the one enacted by Uttar Pradesh,” he said.
Minister Sarma points out there have been many instances of women filing police complaints after marriage stating that they have been duped by their husbands.
“Duping a woman by making false claims about income, employment, educational qualifications or family background is repugnant and needs to be checked. We are saying that a woman duping a man like this, though very rare, is also wrong. Hence this law,” said Sarma.
Lawyers Dubey and Tamuli said that other states which want to fight ‘love jihad’ can emulate Assam.
Sarma’s aides told Swarajya that Assam’s law department is framing the new law in close consultation with legal and constitutional experts to make it a water-tight piece of legislation that will pass judicial scrutiny.
The state government is also mulling the possibility of inviting suggestions from the general public by disclosing the provisions of the proposed legislation before its introduction in the assembly in the form of a bill.
While the provisions of the proposed law is yet to be finalised, sources said that a penalty of a jail term of five years for a guilty party is likely to be incorporated into it.