It is unfortunate that, even after 70 years of our Independence, Indians are being governed by different personal laws based on religion. Its is a bigger irony, that Muslims are governed by Shariat laws which are outdated and unsuitable for the modern era.
The Article 44 of Part IV(which speaks of Directive Principles of State Policy) of Indian Constitution directs the state to have a Uniform Civil Code(UCC) for all citizens. Even Jawaharlal Nehruji supported having a Uniform Civil Code, though did not implement it saying that “Time has not come for that”. Innumerable judgements of Supreme Court have asked Govts to start working towards a UCC. But successive Govts whether Congress or BJP have not taken strong steps in this direction. Though the Modi Govt. outlawed the instant triple-talaq, I consider that step too little, too late.
In spite of all the above, there is one small state which does have an UCC. the same laws apply to citizens in matters of divorce, succession etc.
And that state is GOA. The civil code is called the Goan Civil Code. Let me highlight the history and salient features of the Goa Civil Code.
The Goan civil code was introduced after Portuguese Goa was elevated from being mere Portuguese colonies to the status of a Overseas possession in 1869. The Goan civil code is a Indianized variant of Portuguese legal system. A single code governs all Goans, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or linguistic affiliation.
In some aspects, I see the Goan Civil code gives more rights to Women and Children than even the Hindu Law Code. For e.g.
- 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. In case of Hindu Laws, the wife and Children are entitled only for Maintenance subject to a Court Order.
- 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.
- Though the Goan Code allows bigamy for Hindus, since Indian Penal Code is also applicable to Goa where bigamy is an offense(for all non-Muslims), Hindu men cannot take a second wife in reality.
As far as Muslims are concerned:
- Muslim men cannot practice any form of triple-talaq. They need a divorce decree from court. Muslim men cannot unilaterally divorce their wife.
- Muslims cannot practice polygamy.
- There is no Nikah-halala. After divorce, a woman doesn’t need to sleep with another man, in case she wants to come back to her first husband.
- Property is divided equally among children. And Shariat (where wife has only 1/8th share, daughter gets half of what Son gets) is not followed.
In 1981, Indian Govt. under Indira Gandhi wanted to introduce the religion based civil codes (like Hindu law code for Hindus, Christian Law code for Christians, Shariat for Muslims) in Goa, but did not succeed. There was fierce resistance from mainly Muslim youth and Muslim women organizations. Hence, looking at this, UCC should be liked and accepted by normal Muslims, the major stumbling blocks are the Mullahs and Maulvis whom the Gandhis and the Congress are sponsoring.
I consider the Goan Civil Code pretty scientific and hence should be extended all through the country and applicable to all religions as is the case in Goa.
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