Uniform Civil Code (UCC) is defined in our Constitution under Article 44 of Directive Principles of State Policy. It states that it is the duty of the state to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India. In other words, we can say that it means one country one rule. Uniform Civil Code places a set of laws to govern personal matters of all citizens irrespective of religion is perhaps the need of the hour and ensuring that their fundamental and Constitutional rights are protected.
The Goa Civil Code, also called the Goa Family Law, is the set of civil laws that governs the native residents of the Indian state of Goa and Damon. The Goa civil code was introduced after Portuguese Goa and Damon were elevated from being mere Portuguese colonies to the status of a Provincial Ultramarine (Overseas possession) in 1869 AD. The Goa civil code is a Indianized variant of Portuguese legal system that draws largely from the Code Napoleon, a common legal system in a number of Continental European nations, Indian law mostly derives from English common law that was formulated and applied in British India and remains pegged to developments in the Charter of the British Commonwealth. With a number of amendments, post the Partition of India, Indian laws as a whole, have religion-specific civil codes that separately govern adherents of different religions. Goa is an exception to that rule, in that a single code governs whole goa, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or linguistic affiliation.
An exception to other states Goa has adopted a common civil code, where the key focusing provisions are-
- Marriages: the registration of marriages is made compulsory under the Goa Code so that the disputes which may arise can be resolved by the law. Consent of men and women is required before marriage. The Goa code allows for a prenuptial agreement which can alter the ratio of the distribution of assets.
- Special Marriage Act, 1954
The Special Marriage Act was enacted in India to govern the marriages of two people from different religions. This law is applicable throughout India and governs the divorce of such marriages as well. However, in Goa, this act applies differently. Muslim men whose marriages are registered do not have the right to polygamy in Goa. The property and wealth owned by each spouse are equally divided amongst the spouses during the course of the marriage. In the case of divorce, each spouse is entitled to half of the property and in the case of death of both the spouses, the property is equally divided amongst the surviving members.
- Goa succession, special notaries and inventory proceeding Act, 2012
The distribution of property amongst the heirs is equal. The male and female heirs both have the right to inherit the property and no distinction is made.
Goa being a part of India somehow and somewhere its civil code contradicts Indian laws
- 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 antenuptial 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. A married person cannot sell the property without the consent of his/her spouse.
- The 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.
- Muslim men, who have their marriages registered in Goa, cannot practice polygamy. Also, there is no provision for a verbal divorce.
Goa has adopted a common civil code and not a uniform civil code, ‘uniform’ means the uniformity for all despite being of any religion, race, caste, sex and age. Whereas some laws in goa code makes a fine line of distinction between common civil code and uniform civil code. Bigamy means the offence of marrying someone while already married to another person, Goa Civil Code prohibits bigamy for all other religion except for Hindu’s, the Hindu men have the right to bigamy under specific circumstances mentioned in Codes of Usages and Customs of Gentile Hindus of Goa (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). Such privilege particularly given to men of Hindu religion and prohibition for men of other religion Clearly is not valid to be a part of uniform civil code.
The other to focus on is of the Roman Catholics, who can solemnize their marriages in church after obtaining a No Objection Certificate from the Civil Registrar. Whereas for others, only a civil registration of the marriage is accepted as a proof of marriage. The Catholics marrying in the church are excluded from divorce provisions under the civil law. For any another religion divorce can be taken on any of the valid grounds but to the point of exception for Hindus, divorce is permitted only on the grounds of adultery by the wife. One more point that draws a line of differentiation is that the law has inequalities in case of adopted and illegitimate children.
In conclusion Goa being a small state with 1.59 Million as a population has Common Civil Code and not a Uniform Civil Code, has several points of exceptions based on religion and a bit of uniformity but still not a complete uniformity then making a Uniform Civil Code for a nation with population of 1,391.99 Million, with the people of various different religion, people with various beliefs are not a not as easy as having a cup of tea. For bringing uniformity India still has a very long way to travel.