Divorced Muslim woman can claim maintenance from her ex-husband: Supreme Court

  • Divorced Muslim woman can claim maintenance: The SC bench of Justice BV Nagarathna & Justice Augustine George Masih pronounced concurrent judgments upholding a Muslim woman's rights after a man challenged a Telangana HC's direction to pay 10,000 interim maintenance to his divorced wife.

Written By Gulam Jeelani
Updated10 Jul 2024, 04:42 PM IST
Divorced Muslim woman can claim maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, rules Supreme Court
Divorced Muslim woman can claim maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, rules Supreme Court(AFP)

Divorced Muslim woman can claim maintenance: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a divorced Muslim woman can file a claim for maintenance against her former husband under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), legal news website Bar and Bench reported. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, will not prevail over the secular law, the Apex Court said. 

The SC bench of Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Augustine George Masih pronounced separate but concurrent judgments upholding a Muslim woman's rights after a Muslim man, the petitioner in the case, challenged a Telangana High Court direction to pay 10,000 interim maintenance to his divorced wife.

"We are hereby dismissing the criminal appeal with the major conclusion that Section 125 CrPC would be applicable to all women and not just married women," Justice Nagarathna pronounced the verdict by Bar and Bench.

The top Court also held that if, during the pendency of the application under Section 125 CrPC, the concerned Muslim woman gets divorced, then she can take recourse to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019.

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The 2019 Act provides a remedy in addition to the remedy under Section 125 CrPC, the Court added, according to Bar and Bench.

A divorced Muslim woman cannot seek maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC as the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, will prevail over it, the appeal had said. On February 9, the Court appointed senior counsel Gaurav Aggarwal as amicus curiae to assist with the issue.

Section 125 of CrPc Vs 1986 Muslim Women Act

Section 125 of the CrPC mandates that a person with sufficient means to maintain his wife, children (legitimate or illegitimate), and father or mother in case they cannot maintain themselves. According to the Section, the' wife' includes a woman who has been divorced by or has obtained a divorce from her husband and has not remarried. 

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, however, is a religion-specific law that provides for a procedure for a Muslim woman to claim maintenance during divorce. This Act was enacted to nullify the SC's 1985 verdict in the Shah Bano case, which upheld that Section 125 CrPC is a secular provision applicable to Muslim women, too. 

Section 3 of this 1986 Act guarantees the payment of maintenance to a divorced Muslim woman by her former husband only during the period of 'iddat' — a period, usually of three months, after the divorce before the woman re-marries. 

In 2001, the SC upheld the constitutional validity of the 1986 Act by extending the right of a Muslim woman to get maintenance till she re-marries. It, however, reduced the maintenance period to the completion of 'iddat'.

In 2009, the Supreme Court again mandated a divorced Muslim woman’s right to claim maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC until she re-marries. The court said that such a relief would be extended beyond the ‘iddat’ period.

The Present Case

The present case began with a man's wife approaching a family court in Hyderabad in March 2019, alleging her husband, Abdul Samad, gave her triple talaq and claimed 50,000 monthly maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC. 

The family court directed the petitioner to pay interim maintenance of 20,000 per month in June 2023. The petitioner challenged the family court order before the High Court on the grounds that the couple had divorced as per Muslim personal law in 2017. The petitioner also said he had already paid his former wife 15,000 as maintenance during the ‘iddat’ period.

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In December 2023, the High Court modified the maintenance to 10,000 per month and directed the family court to dispose of the case within six months.

The petitioner's counsel submitted before the Supreme Court that given the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, a divorced Muslim woman is not entitled to claim benefit under Section 125 CrPC. 

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First Published:10 Jul 2024, 04:42 PM IST
HomeNewsIndiaDivorced Muslim woman can claim maintenance from her ex-husband: Supreme Court

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