The Law Commission of India, presently headed by Former Supreme Court Judge, Justice B.S. Chauhan, is working on the possibility of the long pending Uniform Civil Code to be introduced in India. It has been reported that the Law Commission is studying the Portuguese Civil Code to determine its ‘benefits’ and the extent to which it can be effectively implemented in India.
Uniform Civil Code, is a much debated topic in India. Uniform Civil Code, also commonly referred as UCC, as its name suggests signifies a common personal law to be applicable to all persons irrespective of their religion. UCC would ensure a common law for all persons, governing marriage, divorce, adoption, property, succession, etc. Presently, in India, there is no common law governing personal law, each religion has its own law which are mostly based on their own customs and practices. For example, Hindus are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 whereas the Christians are governed by the Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and so on, for each religion. The only state in India to have a common civil code is Goa, which has a common personal law governing all persons, irrespective of religion or language, called as Goa Civil Code or Family Law, which was originally the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867, which continued to be applied in Goa, even after annexation with India. It is interesting to note that the law governing criminal law has been uniform ever since pre-independence era, and it applies equally to all persons irrespective of religion, caste, creed, language and even nationality to some extent.
The Law Commission of India is an advisory body responsible for suggesting regular and continuous changes and reforms in the laws of India, to keep pace with the changing needs of the society. The Law Commission has called for the English translated version of the Portuguese Civil Code also known as Codigo Civil Portugues, to understand its provisions and the probability of implementation in the Indian Scenario.
The Commission is also preparing a questionnaire for the public at large and the major stakeholders for the purpose of inviting views of the public. The list of questions will soon be posted on the website of the Law Commission. Persons with good feedbacks and ideas, and the major stakeholders will also be given an audience. In fact, the Law Commission has already received various requests from a lot of people and personal law boards to be heard at the deliberations.
The Economic Times has quoted an official of the Law Commission stating:
“We are studying the code (Portuguese) to ascertain in what way it can help us in examination of implementation of uniform civil code …This will be the first step to get feedback from the public, stakeholders and others over the different laws on marriage, divorce, succession, inheritance etc. According to the response, the Commission will decide its next step. Any person/institution giving good idea(s) will be invited by the Commission for a hearing”
Despite Article 44 of the Constitution – a directive principle – which mandates a Uniform Civil Code for India, it is the first time that the Government of India has asked the Law Commission to work on UCC due to the fact that it has always been a very controversial topic in India, and has faced reluctance from various religious groups in India. Article 44 reads as follows:
“44. Uniform civil code for the citizens- The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”