Goa was liberated from the Portuguese on December 19, 1961. Fourteen years after India attained independence, Goa was finally liberated and integrated to India. The freedom heralded a new dawn with new possibilities for Goans. But to ensure uniformity in law, the Goans had a strange relic of their past which benefitted them, the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867. By a Decree of November 18, 1869, the Civil Code of 1867 was extended, as of July 1, 1870, to the Overseas Provinces of Portugal. Thus, the Civil Code of 1867 became applicable also in Goa, Daman and Diu. After liberation, by virtue of the Goa, Daman and Diu (Administration) Act 1962, all laws in force in these territories, including the Civil Code, were kept in force after they were integrated with the Indian Union.
Since then, several legal acts of the Indian Union concerning Civil Law matters, such as the Indian Contract Act 1872 and the Indian Transfer of Property Act 1882, were extended to Goa, Daman and Diu and the corresponding provisions of the Civil Code were repealed. The remaining provisions of the code, notably those concerning Family and Succession Law, Property Law (except its transfer) and Tort Law, remained in force.
A Reason for social Harmony
Over the years, the people of Goa have been living in harmony with each other regardless of religion. The Common Civil Code is a big reason for this harmony. Here are some salient features of the Common Civil Code in Goa
1. Equal Rights: The Common Civil Code ensures equal rights and privileges to all individuals, irrespective of their religious beliefs. It recognises the principle of gender equality, granting women the same inheritance rights as men. This provision has played a significant role in empowering women and fostering gender equality within the state.
2. Marriages: the registration of marriages is made compulsory under the code so that the disputes which may arise can be resolved by the law. Consent of men and women is required before marriage. The code allows for a prenuptial agreement which can alter the ratio of the distribution of assets.
3. Communion of Assets: Under the 1867 Code, a communion of assets is, by default, constituted among married couples, comprising all their assets brought to the marriage or acquired after it (article 1108). Those assets are to be administered by the husband (article 1117). Consent of both spouses is nevertheless required for the disposition by any of them of immovable property integrating the communion (article 1119). Furthermore, if the couple becomes separated or divorced, each of them is entitled to half of the common assets (articles 1121 and 1123). The regime of general communion of assets was also called in Article 1108 marriage as per the custom of the realm.
4. Secularism: The Common Civil Code in Goa promotes the principle of secularism by treating all citizens equally, regardless of their religious background. It upholds the idea that personal laws should not infringe upon the principles of justice, equality, and human rights.
5. Legal Certainty: The implementation of a Common Civil Code in Goa has provided legal certainty and predictability. It eliminates confusion and discrepancies arising from multiple personal laws, thereby streamlining the legal system.
People from all communities reside in Goa and have flourished in the state. None of the religious or tribal communities have faced any discrimination because of the Civil Code in Goa. The peaceful coexistence of all communities in Goa is a shining example of how communities can coexist peacefully with a UCC.
Goa’s experience with the Common Civil Code demonstrates that a UCC is not only feasible but also beneficial for a diverse society. Extending this model to the rest of India is essential for social cohesion, gender justice, legal certainty, and national integration. It is time for India to transcend religious boundaries and embrace a Uniform Civil Code that upholds the principles of justice, equality, and individual rights for all citizens. By doing so, we will pave the way for a stronger, more united India.