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Supreme Court Upholds Maintenance Rights for Divorced Muslim Women

In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court of India has ruled that Muslim women can seek maintenance from their former spouses under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). This decision is bound to have significant implications for the rights of divorced Muslim women across the country.

In today’s DNA segment, investigative journalist Anant Tyagi delves into the Supreme Court’s judgment on maintenance obligations towards Muslim women and the legal nuances surrounding it.

The crux of the ruling is that a person possessing sufficient means cannot deny support to his wife, children, or parents, as stipulated under Section 125 of the CrPC. The apex court has implored Indian men to acknowledge the critical role and sacrifices made by ‘homemakers,’ terming them the “strength and backbone” of the Indian family. This recognition should translate into financial support through mechanisms like joint bank accounts and access to ATMs.

A bench of justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih clarified that Section 125 CrPC, which outlines a wife’s legal right to maintenance, applies universally to all women. This includes divorced Muslim women. The court underscored that these Muslim women’s entitlements under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act of 1986, offer supplementary rights beyond the existing laws.

Notably, the 1986 Act permits divorced Muslim women to receive maintenance; however, this is limited to the “Iddat” period, which typically spans 90 days post-divorce. The court emphasized that despite the provisions in the 1986 Act, a divorced Muslim woman retains her independent right to seek maintenance under the secular Section 125 of the CrPC.

“Section 125 of the CrPC applies to all married women, including Muslim married women. It also applies to all divorced women regardless of their faith,” stated the court. When it comes to divorced Muslim women, “Section 125 of the CrPC applies if they were married and divorced under the Special Marriage Act, alongside other remedies. If they were married and divorced under Muslim law, both Section 125 of the CrPC and the 1986 Act’s provisions are applicable. Thus, divorced Muslim women have the option to seek recourse under either or both laws, given that the 1986 Act supplements rather than derogates Section 125 of the CrPC,” added the bench.

Should a divorced Muslim woman choose to utilize Section 125 of the CrPC, any orders under the 1986 Act will be considered under Section 127(3)(b) of the CrPC.

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. Moreover, a divorced Muslim woman can leverage the 1986 Act by applying through its provisions, and the matter can be concluded under this specific enactment.

An additional dimension to the ruling was in addressing illegal divorces under the 2019 Act. For such cases, the court suggested that women could seek subsistence allowance under Section 5 of the 2019 Act or choose to avail remedies under Section 125 of the CrPC.

Further clarifying, the court directed that if a Muslim woman is ‘divorced’ during the pendency of a petition filed under Section 125 of the CrPC, she can continue under Section 125 or opt to file under the 2019 Act. “The 2019 Act offers remedies addition to Section 125 of the CrPC rather than replacing it,” affirmed the court.

The Supreme Court’s ruling stemmed from an appeal contesting the High Court of Telangana’s decision on December 13, 2023, which modified a family court’s earlier decision. The High Court had reduced the interim maintenance payable by the husband from Rs 20,000 per month to Rs 10,000 per month. Senior Advocate S Wasim A Qadri, along with advocate Saeed Qadri, represented the husband in the matter.

The husband argued that the maintenance amount determined under Section 125 CrPC was unmaintainable in light of sections 3, 4, and 5 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

However, the Supreme Court upheld the Telangana High Court’s order, maintaining that the petition filed under Section 125 of CrPC was valid.

This case, titled Mohamed Abdul Samad v. State of Telangana and Anr, arose when Abdul Samad’s ex-wife demanded financial support following their divorce in 2017. Initially, the family court had ordered Samad to pay Rs 20,000 per month in interim maintenance. Unsatisfied, Samad appealed to the Telangana High Court, which subsequently halved the amount to Rs 10,000 per month. His further appeal brought the case to the Supreme Court, where his arguments were ultimately dismissed.

The Supreme Court’s verdict reaffirms that divorced Muslim women have the right to claim maintenance under the CrPC, highlighting a progressive approach towards safeguarding their rights and ensuring they receive due support.