No attempt at framing uniform civil code, says SC

The Supreme Court on Friday said “no attempt” had been made to frame a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) applicable to all citizens of the country despite founding fathers of the country having favoured it.

The top court praised Goa as “a shining example of an Indian state which has a uniform civil code for all, regardless of the religion”.

A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said, “It is interesting to note that whereas the founders of the Constitution in Article 44 in Part IV dealing with the Directive Principles of State Policy had hoped and expected that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territories of India, till date no action has been taken in this regard.”

The bench noted though Hindu laws were codified in the year 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 ‘Mohd Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano’ (1985) and ‘Sarla Mudgal and Ors vs Union of India and Ors’ (1995).

The court pointed out with effect from December 22, 2016, Goa had this distinction, where a married couple jointly holds the ownership of all the assets owned before marriage or acquired after marriage by each spouse. Therefore, in case of divorce, each spouse is entitled to half share of the assets.

The Muslim men, whose marriages are registered in Goa, cannot practice polygamy. Further, even for followers of Islam, there is no provision for verbal divorce over there, it said.

The court made these observations while holding that the Portuguese Civil Code being a special Act, which is applicable only to the domiciles of Goa, would also be applied to Goan domiciles in respect to all properties, within and outside of Goa.

Notably, the recent law to declare Triple Talaq a punishable offence is seen as a forward movement in this regard by the BJP government, which is in favour of framing the Uniform Civil Code.

In a consultation paper, the Law Commission had in August, 2018 said the Uniform Civil Code was “neither necessary nor desirable” at this stage. However, it suggested introduction of new grounds for ‘no fault’ divorce, changes to provisions on alimony and maintenance, and ending uncertainty and inequality in age of consent for marriage.

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