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No attempt to enact uniform civil code despite repeated court appeals: Supreme Court

Goa’s uniform civil code is largely a Portuguese legacy and continues to operate as Indian law with some parts repealed or modified.

, ET Bureau|
Sep 14, 2019, 07.49 AM IST
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Goa, Baga, Saturday evening market.
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday expressed dismay over the failure of successive governments to enact a uniform civil code despite repeated appeals from the court. Delivering a verdict in a divorce case of a Goan couple, a bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose, said that Goa — where the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867 is applicable to all — was a ‘shining example’ of a state that had enacted and implemented the UCC.

Muslims have no right to verbally divorce their wives nor can they practice polygamy. All property in a marriage is divided between spouses in case of a divorce, Justice Gupta noted. Goa’s uniform civil code is largely a Portuguese legacy and continues to operate as Indian law with some parts repealed or modified. Though founders of the Constitution in the Directive Principles of State Policy said “that the state shall endeavour to secure for citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territories of India,till date no action has been taken,” Justice Gupta said.

“Though Hindu laws were codified 1956, there has been no attempt to frame a uniform civil code applicable to all citizens of the country despite exhortations of this court in the case of Mohammed Ahmed Khan Versus Shah Bano and Sarla Mudgal & Others Versus Union of India & Others.”

In both cases the court exhorted Parliament to enact a uniform civil code to the exclusion of personal laws applicable in matters of marriage, divorce, inheritance and succession. The court cannot order Parliament to frame a law and can only ask it to consider enacting one. “However, Goa is a shining example of an Indian state which has a uniform civil code applicable to all,regardless of religion except while protecting certain limited rights,” the bench said.

Therefore,in case of divorce, each spouse is entitled to half share of the assets.The law, however, permits prenuptial agreements which may have a different system of division of assets.

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