The Supreme Court has held that the rights of succession and inheritance of a Goan domicile shall be governed by the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 as applicable in the State of Goa.
Rights of succession and inheritance even in respect of properties of a Goan domicile situated outside Goa, anywhere in India, will also be governed by the Code, the bench comprising Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose has held.
The issue considered by the Apex court in Jose Paulo Coutinho vs. Maria Luiza Valentina Pereira was whether succession to the property of a Goan situate outside Goa in India will be governed by the Portuguese Civil Code, 1867 as applicable in the State of Goa or the Indian succession Act, 1925.
Portuguese Civil Code is an Indian Law
Answering the issue whether the Portuguese Civil Code can be said to be a foreign law and the principles of private international law are applicable, the bench said:
We are clearly of the view that these laws would not have been applicable unless recognised by the Indian Government and the Portuguese Civil Code continued to apply in Goa only because of an Act of the Parliament of India. Therefore, the Portuguese law which may have had foreign origin became a part of the Indian laws, and, in sum and substance, is an Indian law. It is no longer a foreign law. Goa is a territory of India; all domiciles of Goa are citizens of India; the Portuguese Civil Code is applicable only on account of the Ordinance and the Act referred to above. Therefore, it is crystal clear that the Code is an Indian law and no principles of private international law are applicable to this case.
Goan Domicile Outside Goa Will Also Be Governed By Code
Another issue was whether the property of a Goan domicile outside the territory of Goa would be governed by the Code or by Indian Succession Act or by personal laws, as applicable in the rest of the country e.g. Hindu Succession Act, 1956, Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, etc. The bench observed:
The Portuguese Civil Code being a special Act, applicable only to the domiciles of Goa, will be applicable to the Goan domiciles in respect to all the properties wherever they be situated in India whether within Goa or outside Goa and Section 5 of the Indian Succession Act or the laws of succession would not be applicable to such Goan domiciles.
Click here to Read/Download Judgment