Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Saturday lauded the Uniform Civil Code in Goa and said that intellectuals debating the proposed set of laws should visit the state and observe the administration of justice, reported Bar and Bench.
“Goa has what the constitutional framers envisaged for India, a Uniform Civil Code,” Bobde said at the inaugural function of a new building of Bombay High Court in Goa. “It applies in marriage and succession governing all Goans irrespective of religious affiliation. I have heard a lot of academic talk about the Uniform Civil Code. I would request all those intellectuals to simply come here and watch the administration of justice to know what it turns out to be.”
Article 44 of the Constitution says the state shall “endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”. Establishing such a code has been on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s agenda for long, and was on its manifesto for the 2019 General Elections. In its absence, various faiths have their own personal laws on matters such as marriage, divorce and succession. The Uniform Civil Code, if implemented, will override all these personal laws with a common set of rules governing every citizen. Goa is the only state in India that has a UCC.
During his inaugural address, Bobde also spoke about the legacy of the administration of justice in Goa that has spanned over a period of more than four and a half centuries.
He said that even though the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court was only 30 years old, the court has not only maintained the highest traditions of judicial propriety but also made a significant contribution to the development of law.
Bobde said that a unique aspect to being a judge in Goa was that any bench in India that gives one the variety of experiences and challenges as the Supreme Court was the constitution bench in the state.
He also emphasised that there was a need for a new High Court building at its principal seat at Bombay, Live Law reported. “To use the law minister’s [Ravi Shankar Prasad] phrase, I would like to ‘flag’ this... Bombay also needs a new building,” Bobde said. “The law minister and Justice [NV] Ramana would remember this especially that the Bombay building was constructed for 7 judges, it is now housing more than 40. It is impossible.”
He also mentioned the coronavirus outbreak, saying that although the pandemic posed many questions on access to justice, it paved way for modernising the courtroom.
“Though building more courtrooms are necessary and important, there was very little emphasis on modernising existing courtrooms,” said the chief justice. “I see a trend of having smaller courtrooms in the future because of Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad’s ministry. The e-filing and the data which can be contained, is going to take away the need for many storage rooms.”
He also said that the Centre and states should cooperate to create a National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation. “Such a corporation would bring the uniformity and standardisation required to revolutionise judicial infrastructure,” Bobde said.
Justice NV Ramana, who will replace Bobde as the chief justice, said that due to the intricacies involved in the judicial process, a sustainable and inclusive model of modernisation of judicial infrastructure was necessary.
Noting that lawyers were at the forefront of India’s freedom struggle, Ramana also said that it was important for them to take up more pro bono cases. “If senior lawyers do at least two pro-bono cases a month, it would change the legal aid landscape of the country and will increase the quality of service,” Ramana said.
In September 2019, the Supreme Court had praised Goa for being a “shining example” of a state that had uniform civil laws. The court had also said that the ruling government had made no attempt to frame a Uniform Civil Code even though the makers of the Constitution had expressed hope for such a law.