Supreme Court Rules Divorced Muslim Women Can Claim Maintenance Under CrPC

The Supreme Court of India on Wednesday delivered a landmark ruling, stating that a divorced Muslim woman can claim maintenance from her former husband under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). This decision overturns the argument that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, supersedes the provisions of Section 125 CrPC for divorced Muslim women.

The case arose when a Muslim man appealed a Telangana High Court order directing him to pay ₹ 10,000 interim maintenance to his divorced wife. The man argued that since they were divorced under Muslim personal law, the 1986 Act should govern the maintenance issue, negating the applicability of Section 125 CrPC.

However, the Supreme Court bench, comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih, upheld the High Court’s order and dismissed the appeal. Justice Nagarathna, in her judgment, stated that Section 125 CrPC applies to all women, regardless of their marital status.

The Court also clarified that if a Muslim woman seeking maintenance under Section 125 CrPC gets divorced during the pendency of the application, she can additionally avail the remedies provided by the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019.

This ruling reaffirms the principle established in the Shah Bano case, where the Supreme Court had initially held that Section 125 CrPC applies to Muslim women too. Although the 1986 Act was enacted to overturn the Shah Bano judgment, the Supreme Court’s latest verdict emphasizes that divorced Muslim women are not excluded from the provisions of Section 125 CrPC.

The case originates from a 2019 incident where a woman approached a family court in Hyderabad, alleging her husband had given her triple talaq and seeking ₹ 50,000 monthly maintenance under Section 125 CrPC. The family court granted her ₹ 20,000 interim maintenance.

The man challenged this order in the High Court, arguing that the divorce had occurred in 2017 according to Muslim personal law and that he had already paid ₹ 15,000 maintenance during the ‘iddat’ period. The High Court reduced the maintenance to ₹ 10,000 per month and directed the family court to conclude the case within six months.

The Supreme Court’s decision underscores the importance of ensuring the financial security of women, even after divorce, and affirms the applicability of Section 125 CrPC to all women, regardless of religious affiliation or marital status.

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