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Goa UCC Model

Authored By- Shreya Venkatesh

Keywords: Uniform Civil Code, Progressive legislation, Article 44 of the Indian Constitution

Abstract Although the constitution is the law of the land, there is one aspect that it doesn’t necessarily cover. India, being a secular country fundamentally doesn’t believe that there is only one religion that governs the people. Since it is supportive of all religions, it also doesn’t demand that all religions be governed by the same law. Therefore, personal laws govern various aspects of a domestic environment and differ from religion to religion. In the whole of India, only goa follows the system of a uniform civil code regardless of religion, gender, and caste. This article specifically follows Goa’s UCC model and its overall effectiveness, how it is viewed, and whether it is a boon or a bane for the community. Introduction Personal laws are derived from religious scriptures, customs, and traditions. Each religion has different procedures and rules regarding marriage, divorce, succession, adoption and other social constructs or institutions that come under the domestic sphere. Each personal law is unique and distinct and bringing all of them under a uniform civil code will necessarily mean that certain laws have to be changed or compromised. So, the certain religious community might see their compromise as unfair and a deviation from their values. Therefore, even though the courts have urged the formation of a UCC under Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, the government hasn’t decided or come to a common consensus. In Goa, however,therewasaUCC even when it officially became a part of India and the code was amended and kept. History Goa became a part of India in 1961 through the Goa Daman and Diu administration act 1962. The parliament, at the time, authorized the Portugal civil code of 1867 in Goa and said that it would be amended by a competent legislature to suit the requirements of the state. This in turn became the Goa Civil Code after a lot of amendments. In 1981, the Indian government appointed a personal law committee to determine if these laws could be efficiently implemented in the estate but the results were unsatisfactory. It was only in 2012, that the Goa Succession Act was passed by the parliament that led to recent development in the Goa UCC. This UCC is said to provide a model for the rest of the country if, in fact, they want to adopt a uniform code. It shows to a great extent how a more egalitarian society would work by providing equal rights for both men and women without hurting religious sentiments. Concept Issues such as marriage, divorce, and succession are dealt with by a uniform code in goa, and Hindus, Muslims, and Christians are bound by it. There are only a few exceptions to the common law. Marriage is considered a social contract between two people of different sex. It is considered as something that is done with the sole purpose of living together and constituting a legitimate family. It also did away with “talaq-e-biddat” or triple talaq even before the supreme court judgement in the ShayaraBano v. Union of India and others [1] case and the triple talaq Bill.ThemostsignificantresultoftheUCCistheconceptofhavingpre-nuptials.This is a public deed that is entered into before marriage, prescribing the method of disposal or distribution of property in the event of the death of a spouse or divorce. Goa’s UCC model has a unique concept of matrimonial property rights. There is no formal acceptance of this concept in the rest of India and this often leads to property disputes. The male descendants have exclusive rights to the ancestral property and they are free to manage it however they deem fit after inheriting it. Women are completely taken out of the equation and this just reinforces the concept of a patriarchal society where women are subjugated and their basic human rights and other rights aren’t even recognized. In Goa, the couple has a choice to either enter into a regime of the communion of assets which provides for the property of both the spouses to be split in exactly half. Furthermore, the property that they jointly inheritor co-own will also be separated in equal portions if they get a divorce. If while entering into this contract, they add a clause saying that the property owned before marriage is not to be touched, this is final. This contract cannot be amended or revoked on divorce. The parents of the propositus cannot entirely inherit the assets. At least half the assets have to be given to the descendants and they have to share them equally. There is no concept of the male descendent getting twice the share as the female as seen in Sunni Law of inheritance.

Is the UCC as ideal as it seems to be? There are certain aspects on which the UCC doesn’t deviate from personal laws. One of these instances is that Catholic marriages that are solemnized by the church can also be annulled by the matter instance of one of the parties. This essentially leaves the spouse without any means of redressal under their own personal laws. Muslim men who have registered their marriage in Goa are not entitled to have polygamous relationships but Hindu men are allowed to practice bigamy. According to a 1974 government census, 5.6% out of 6 crores Muslims were in bigamous marriages and so were 5.8% out of 45.3 crore Hindus. This is a drastic percentage difference. Hindu men in bigamous marriages do it even though it is illegal outside Goa and they don’t hold any responsibility towards the second woman and redressal becomes a difficult task. Whereas, Muslim men with multiple wives have a commitment to each of them. By banning polygamy among Muslims, the UCC is essentially encouraging illegal illicit affairs, thereby leaving women without any means of redressal both under the UCC as well as under their personal laws. There is thus a lot of scope for further amendment and improvement of the UCC. A critical Analysis A closer examination of Goa’s UCC model will reveal that it’s not as perfect and ideal as it seems to be. By giving women a more equal standing on marriage, divorce, and inheritance the UCC has been a step forward towards what it calls “progressive” and uniform laws. However, the concept of uniformity is a wide spectrum. In the name of uniformity in the application of laws, the code ends up uniformly discriminating against all social groups. By imposing the model on people with different ideas that don’t agree on a fundamental level, they are creating more inequality. It presents itself as a chimera of nationalism but is actually far from utopian reality. Although this is “progressive legislation” on paper, it is still prevalent in a patriarchal society that aims to prioritize male privilege. The dominant classes in society are invariably vested with more power and have an unfair advantage. Women’s basic human rights and fundamental rights are often not upheld and they are left helpless with no means to seek redressal. They are still subjugated and are seen as the lesser gender. Sometimes, their personal laws might actually offer them more protection than the UCC. One such case is is that of Muslim law.

In the Shayara Bano case, the court granted the woman maintenance based on the interpretation of Muslim law. Under UCC, there is a high chance that she wouldn’t have received maintenance as it merges all the personal laws into one common one. Even in the Sarla Mudgal case, the Supreme Court emphasized the need for the UCC and referenced the Goa model as telling are examples. However, they still did not fully take into consideration that the current model has a major scope for improvement. The government, despite the persistent advice and recommendation of the Judiciary, hasn’t taken any action towards its implementation as per Article 44 which is part of the Directive Principles of state policy.


Although the Goa UCC Model has its benefits, it does not essentially strike the eye as egalitarian. It is just not as regressive as some of the people all laws but it is also biased towards patriarchal beliefs and conventional social constructs. In order for it to become the best version of itself, it will need to pay heed to the Women’s Rights movement, Feministic ideologies and breaking free of conventional beliefs and social constructs. It is only if it does this that it will become closer to the equal, uniform source of family law that it claims to be.

[1] ShayaraBano v. Union of India and others, (2017) 9 SCC 1.


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