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‘Not Charity, Right’: Supreme Court’s Big Alimony Order For Muslim Women

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A bench of Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Augustine George Masih dismissed a Muslim man’s petition challenging a direction to pay maintenance

New Delhi: 

A divorced Muslim woman can seek alimony from her husband under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Supreme Court ruled today. The big judgment came as a bench of Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Augustine George Masih dismissed a Muslim man’s petition challenging a direction to pay maintenance to his divorced wife under CrPC.

“We are hereby dismissing the criminal appeal with the major conclusion that Section 125 would be applicable to all women and not just married women,” Justice Nagarathna said. Justice Nagarathna and Justice Masih delivered separate, but concurrent, judgments.

The bench made it clear that the law for seeking maintenance applies to all married women, irrespective of their religion.

Maintenance, the court said, is not charity, but the right of married women. In strong remarks, Justice Nagarathna said, “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 recognise a homemaker’s role and sacrifice.”

The Case, The Arguments

The landmark judgment has come on 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 the direction, but the Telangana High Court refused to intervene. He then moved the Supreme Court. His counsel argued that divorced Muslim women can seek recourse to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 Act and stressed that it provides much more than what Section 125 CrPC does. He also argued that a special law — referring to the Act — shall prevail over a general law.

Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agarwal countered that the personal law does not take away a woman’s entitlement to relief under the gender-neutral CrPC.

The History, The Significance

To understand the significance of this judgment, there is a need to go back to the Shah Bano case in 1985. In this landmark verdict, the Supreme Court had ruled that Section 125 of CrPC applies to everyone, irrespective of their religion. This was, however, diluted by the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, that stated that the Muslim woman can seek maintenance only during iddat — 90 days after the divorce.

In 2001, the Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional validity of the 1986 Act, but ruled that the obligation of a man to provide maintenance to his divorced wife extends till she remarries or is able to support herself. Today’s order further consolidates a divorced woman’s order to seek alimony under CrPC, irrespective of her religion.

Source: ndtv

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