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Government position: review of personal law only if a “significant majority” calls for a change

At a time when there is a growing chorus, and debate, about the need to review personal laws and have a uniform civil codelike in Goa where a 155-year-old Portuguese Era Law is still in force, the Ministry of Law and Justice is said to have informed a parliamentary committee that the review of these laws can be undertaken when a “significant majority” of the population calls for the modification of existing laws or when a new law is enacted.

Even in the case of Goa, where the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867 continues, the ministry reportedly pointed out to the committee that the original law had to undergo changes over the years, and if it needs to be revised, it needs to be looked at. .

The government, we learn, has communicated its position to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, which has chosen the review of personal laws as the subject of examination during its 2021 term. -22.

The committee, led by BJP member Sushil Kumar Modi, has 28 members – 7 from Rajya Sabha and 21 from Lok Sabha.

We learn that the committee traveled to Goa on June 26 to study common family law relating to marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc., and applicable to all religious communities, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

The Chief Secretary of Goa, the current and former Advocate General, representatives of civil society organizations reportedly briefed the committee on the experience of the state in implementing a uniform civil code related to laws on the family over the years.

Goa is the only Indian state to have a uniform civil code regardless of religion, gender and caste. A former Portuguese colony, it inherited the Portuguese Civil Code of 1867 which is still applicable in the state even after joining the Indian Union in 1961.

In other parts of the country, different personal laws apply to different religious communities. For example, the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 applies to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs, the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act 1936 applies to matters relating to Parsis, the 1872 Act on Indian Christian Marriage for Christians and Muslim Personal Law. (Chariat Application), 1937 is applicable to Muslims in personal matters.

Article 44 of the Constitution – in Part IV which deals with the guiding principles of State policy – stipulates: “The State shall endeavor to secure to the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of the India.”

The issue of the Uniform Civil Code has long been the subject of political debate and judicial scrutiny and is included in the BJP’s election manifesto.


For Parliament alone

The UCC has long been a promise of the BJP. Because family and estate laws are the concurrent jurisdiction of the Center and the states, a state government can pass a state law. But a uniform law throughout the country can only be enacted by Parliament.

During the Uttarakhand Assembly elections earlier this year, the BJP promised that if re-elected, it would promulgate a uniform civil code for the state. Shortly after returning to power, the The Pushkar Dhami government has formed a five-member expert committee, led by retired Supreme Court Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai. The the committee held its first meeting this month.

Since family and inheritance laws are the concurrent jurisdiction of the Center and the states, a state government can pass a state law, but for uniform law across the country, this cannot be enacted than by Parliament.

The 28 members of the parliamentary committee represent 10 parties – BJP (11), Congress (4), TMC (3), DMK, TRS and Shiv Sena (2 each), and BSP, LJSP, TDP and YSRCP (1 each). They come from 16 states and union territories: Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana , Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.

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