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Unlocking the Goa Civil Code Significance - SRIRAMs IAS



  Aug 03, 2023

Goa Civil Code


What is a uniform civil code?

A Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is a set of fair and equal laws that apply to all citizens, regardless of their religion or personal beliefs in matters such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and adoption.It means that all people, regardless of their faith, will follow the same rules.

The idea behind a Uniform Civil Code is to ensure that no one feels discriminated against and denied justice based on their religion. It promotes a sense of harmony and equality in a diverse society like India. However, UCC is a sensitive matter as it deals with matters close to one's heart.
 

Do we have Uniform Civil Code in India?

Parliament made laws to reform the Hindu law almost entirely. But personal laws of other religions are largely left to religion and tradition.
 

So, what is the critical view of the current status of personal laws in India?

While the present policy is a part of our pluralism and tolerance, it does violate gender justice and justice to children as different religions have different traditions for adoption and guardianship.
 

Tell us about the Goa Family Law

Goa is the only State to have a Uniform Civil Code in India. Goa has its own personal laws that are vastly different from the rest of the country due to its unique history. In Goa, the Goa Civil Code or Goa Family Law codifies civil laws for the residents of Goa. It covers all residents of Goa, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, or language. It comes from the Portuguese Civil Code 1867, which was introduced in Goa in 1870. The civil code continued in Goa even after its merger with the Indian Union in 1961.
 

Give details of the Goa civil code and show how it's progressive

Goa Family Law is different from Indian personal laws in the following ways: 1. Parents cannot disinherit their children entirely. At least half of their property has to be passed on to the children compulsorily. This inherited property must be shared equally among the children. 2. A married couple jointly holds ownership of all the assets owned before the marriage or acquired after the marriage by each spouse. In case of a divorce, each spouse is entitled to a half share of the assets. However, the law also allows ante nuptial agreements, which may state a different division of assets in case of a divorce. These agreements also allow the spouses to hold the assets acquired before marriage separately. Such agreements cannot be changed or revoked. 3. Muslim men, who have their marriages registered in Goa, cannot practice polygamy. There is no provision for a verbal divorce.
 

Are there any shortcomings in the Goa personal law?

Critics hold that:

☛ The Hindu men have the Right to Bigamy under specific circumstances: if the wife fails to deliver a child by the age of 25, or if she fails to deliver a male child by the age of 30. For other communities, the law prohibits bigamy.

☛ The joint sharing of property by the couple is defeated by any pre-marriage agreement that may state a different division.

What has been the contribution of the Supreme Court in bringing about justice and uniformity in personal laws?

The Supreme Court of India has made several judgments related to the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) in India. Important ones are:

☛ Shah Bano Case (1985): In this landmark judgement, the Supreme Court held that a divorced Muslim woman was entitled to maintenance beyond the period of iddat (a waiting period after divorce). The Court observed that the provisions of the Muslim personal law, which denied maintenance to the woman, were discriminatory. This case sparked a nationwide debate on the need for a UCC.

☛ Sarla Mudgal Case (1995): The Supreme Court held that a Hindu man who converted to Islam to marry again without legally divorcing his first wife would be liable for prosecution under the bigamy laws. The Court emphasised the need for a UCC to address issues of marriage, divorce, and maintenance across different religions.

☛ Shabnam Hashmi v. Union of India(2014) There is no general law for adoption in India and the personal laws of Muslims, Christians, and Parsis do not completely recognize adoption. Adoption is not recognized in Islam.This case dealt with the adoption of a child by a Muslim parent . Supreme Court ruled that any person can adopt a child under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 irrespective of religion he or she follows even if the personal law of the particular religion does not permit it.

☛ Joseph Shine Case (2018): The Court struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized adultery, stating that it violated the fundamental rights to equality and dignity. The judgement highlighted the need for a UCC to remove discriminatory provisions from personal laws.

☛ Shayara Bano case(2017) outlawed the practice of Triple Talaq (instant divorce) among Muslims because it violated Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 21 (Right to Life with dignity).

☛ ABC v. The State (NCT of Delhi) is a case in which the Supreme court of India held that an unwed woman belonging to the Christian faith can become a legal guardian of her child without the father's consent.This right was denied to Christian women earlier.


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