The Supreme Court (SC) of India on 6 April 2015 said that divorced Muslim women are entitled to seek maintenance from their ex-husbands. They are entitled for maintenance under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) which provides the same relief to wives, children and parents.
The apex court upheld a family court's order of directing a man to pay 4000 rupees as maintenance to his divorced wife and said that right to maintenance of a wife under Section 125 of the CrPC was absolute and no exceptions could be made. The rule would also apply to divorced Muslim women as well.
It further said that the amount of maintenance to be awarded under Section 125 of CrPC cannot be restricted for the iddat period (three months) only as the inherent and fundamental principle behind Section 125 is amelioration of financial state of affairs.
Also, it said that an order under Section 125 CrPC can be passed if a person, despite having sufficient means, neglects or refuses to maintain the wife.
The court rejected to buy the argument that sometimes husbands does not have the means to pay for he does not have a job or his business is not doing well and said that these excuses have no acceptability in law.
The decision was made by the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C Pant in a case involving one Shamima Farooqui from Lucknow.
What is the case?
The case relates to ill-treatment of Shamima Farooqui by her husband Shahid Khan, an Army personnel, who divorced her and later remarried.
She filed a case against her husband seeking maintenance in a family court in 1998; however, her application was taken up in 2012. The family court ruled in her favour and initially granted her 2000 rupees per month and later 4000 rupees per month after it found that she had no other means of supporting herself.
This ruling of family court was challenged in the Allahabad High Court which reduced the maintenance to 2000 rupees per month on the ground that the husband had retired from the Army in 2012.
Significance of the Judgment
The SC judgment is significant because it clarifies and settles the issue that civil law of the land would prevail over any personal laws. This in turn would help divorced Muslim women whose right to maintenance was curtailed by Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 passed in Parliament by the Rajiv Gandhi government in the wake of the top court's Shah Bano ruling.
The Shah Bano case pertains to 60-year old Shah Bano who went to Supreme Court demanding maintenance from her husband who divorced her. The court ruled in her favour and entitled her to maintenance from her ex-husband under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (with an upper limit of 500 rupees a month) like any other Indian woman.
When: 6 April 2015