Supreme Court upholds alimony rights for divorced Muslim women

The judgment came in response to a petition by Mohd Abdul Samad, who was directed by a family court to pay a monthly allowance to his divorced wife.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court ruled that divorced Muslim women can seek alimony from her ex-husband under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). This significant judgment was delivered by a bench comprising Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Augustine George Masih, who dismissed a Muslim man’s petition challenging the directive to pay maintenance to his divorced wife under CrPC.

Supreme Court Ruling on Maintenance Rights for Divorced Muslim Women

Justice Nagarathna stated, “We are now dismissing the criminal appeal with the major conclusion that Section 125 would apply to all women and not just married women.” Both Justice Nagarathna and Justice Masih delivered separate but concurrent judgments. The bench emphasized that the law for seeking maintenance applies to all married women, regardless of their religion. Maintenance, the court asserted, is not charity but the right of married women.

Divorced Muslim Women
Image Source: About Islam

Justice Nagarathna made strong remarks about the role of women, especially homemakers, stating, “Some husbands are not conscious of the fact that the wife, who is a homemaker, is dependent on them emotionally and in other ways. The time has come when the Indian man must recognize a homemaker’s role and sacrifice.”

Background of the Case

The judgment came in response to a petition by Mohd Abdul Samad, who was directed by a family court to pay a monthly allowance to his divorced wife. Mr. Samad challenged this direction, but the Telangana High Court refused to intervene, leading him to approach the Supreme Court. His counsel argued that divorced Muslim women could seek recourse under the Muslim Women Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, which provides more than Section 125 CrPC. He maintained that a special law should prevail over a general law.

Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agarwal countered this argument, stating that personal law does not negate a woman’s entitlement to relief under the gender-neutral CrPC.

The significance of this judgment traces back to the Shah Bano case in 1985, where the Supreme Court ruled that Section 125 CrPC applies to everyone, irrespective of religion. However, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, later stated that Muslim women could seek maintenance only during the iddat period, 90 days after the divorce.

In 2001, the Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional validity of the 1986 Act but ruled that a man’s obligation to provide maintenance to his divorced wife extends until she remarries or can support herself. Today’s ruling further solidifies a divorced woman’s right to seek alimony under CrPC, regardless of her religion.

This landmark decision reinforces the legal position that all women, including divorced Muslim women, have the right to seek maintenance under Section 125 CrPC. It underscores the broader principle of gender equality and the recognition of the financial and emotional dependence of homemakers on their spouses. The ruling marks a significant step towards ensuring justice and financial security for divorced women in India.

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