How Divorced Muslim Women Can Seek Maintenance Under Section 125 CrPC ?

SC has ruled that divorced Muslim women can seek maintenance from their former husbands under Section 125 of the CrPC.

In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that divorced Muslim women can seek maintenance from their former husbands under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), a provision that applies to all women regardless of their religion. This ruling emphasizes that Section 125, now part of the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita, offers more beneficial terms for divorced Muslim women compared to the 1986 Act.

The case in question involved a Muslim man challenging a Telangana High Court order that required him to pay ₹10,000 in interim maintenance to his ex-wife. He argued that maintenance should be governed by the 1986 Act, not Section 125 CrPC. However, the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal, reaffirming that Section 125 CrPC applies to all women.

Understanding Section 125 CrPC:

-> Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih clarified that Section 125 CrPC includes the maintenance rights of Muslim women. Maintenance is a legal entitlement for married women, not charity, and applies to all women irrespective of religion. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, does not override the secular provisions of Section 125 CrPC.

>  The court underscored that husbands are obligated to provide financial support to their wives, suggesting practical measures such as joint bank accounts and shared ATM access to ensure economic stability for women within the household.

>  If a Muslim woman is divorced during a pending Section 125 CrPC petition, she can seek recourse through the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019, while continuing the Section 125 petition.

What is Section 125 CrPC?

Section 125 of the CrPC mandates that a person with sufficient means must provide maintenance to:

> His wife, unable to maintain herself,

>  His legitimate or illegitimate minor child, whether married or not, is unable to maintain itself,

>  His legitimate or illegitimate child (not being a married daughter) who, due to physical or mental abnormality or injury, is unable to maintain itself,

>  His father or mother is unable to maintain themselves.

A Magistrate of the first class can order such maintenance as deemed fit upon proof of neglect or refusal.

Case Background: The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal from a Muslim man who contested a maintenance order under Section 125 CrPC, arguing that the 1986 Act should take precedence. This decision reinforces the precedent set by the Shah Bano case, which established that Muslim women could seek maintenance under the secular provisions of Section 125 CrPC.

Historical Context – Shah Bano Case:

>  The 1985 Shah Bano case was a significant moment for Muslim women’s rights in India. The Supreme Court ruled that Muslim women were entitled to maintenance under Section 125 CrPC.

>  In response, the Rajiv Gandhi government enacted the 1986 Act, which limited maintenance to the ‘Iddat’ period and child support up to two years post-divorce.

>  Despite this, the principles of the Shah Bano verdict persisted. The Supreme Court in Daniel Latifi Vs Union of India (2001) reaffirmed the 1985 judgment, ensuring Muslim women were not deprived of protections under Section 125 CrPC.

>  Upholding the constitutional validity of the 1986 Act, the Supreme Court ruled that a Muslim husband’s maintenance responsibility could extend beyond the Iddat period, requiring fair provisions for the divorced wife’s future.

In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s ruling ensures that divorced Muslim women can seek maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, reinforcing the secular and inclusive nature of the law.

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