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Shah Bano Begum Case |Explained!

Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs Shah Bano Begum And Ors on 23 April, 1985

1985 AIR 945, 1985 SCR (3) 844

Bench: Chandrachud, Y.V. ((Cj), Desai, D.A., Reddy, O. Chinnappa (J), Venkataramiah, E.S. (J), Misra Rangnath

Background

The solution to the issue “Who May Claim Maintenance?” is dealt with under Section 125(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Wife from his spouse, legal or illegitimate minor child from his father, legal or illegitimate minor child (physical or mental abnormalities) from his father, and father or mother from his son or daughter.

The following are the requirements for awarding maintenance:

  • There are sufficient resources for upkeep (the person who has to give the maintenance should have the means to give the same).
  • After a demand for maintenance has been made, there is a lack of maintenance or a reluctance to maintain ( if the person defaults or omits to provide maintenance or if he denies his obligation of maintaining then it amounts to neglect or refusal respectively).
  • The individual requesting maintenance must be unable to support himself (only if the person is unable to maintain themselves).
  • Maintenance quantity (depends on the standard of living).

Facts

Mohd Ahmed Khan (the appealing party), a lawyer by profession, married Shah Bano Begum (the respondent) in 1932 and the couple had three sons and two daughters.

Shah Bano was abandoned by her husband and sent out of her marital house with her children when she was 62 years old in 1975. In 1978, she filed an appeal in front of the Judicial Magistrate of Indore, claiming that she had been deprived of the Rs. 200 per month support that he had promised to give.

She sought maintenance of Rs. 500 every month. On November 6th, 1978, the husband granted her an irrevocable triple talaq and used that as a justification for not paying support.

In August 1979, the court ordered the husband to pay a total of Rs 25 per month in maintenance. In July 1908, Shah Bano petitioned the High Court of M.P. to modify the amount of maintenance to Rs. 179 per month and the high court agreed, and the maintenance was increased to the amount requested, i.e. Rs. 179 per month. The ruling of the High Court was contested by the spouse in the Supreme Court as a special leave petition.

Issues

  • Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (II of 1974). Is a divorced Muslim lady included in the “WIFE” definition?
  • Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (II of 1974). Is it possible that it will take precedence over personal law?
  • Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (II of 1974). Is there a contradiction between section 125 and Muslim Personal Law when it comes to a Muslim husband’s responsibility to give maintenance for a divorced wife?
  • Section 127(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code (II of 1974). (b). What is the divorce settlement? Isn’t it true that the meaning of Mehar, or dower, isn’t totaled up and paid out on divorce?

Judgment

  • The decision was delivered by C.J. Y.C Chandrachud, and Mohd. Ahmed Khan’s appeal was dismissed.
  • According to the Supreme Court, Section 125(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure applies to all citizens regardless of religion, and so Section 125(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure applies to Muslims without prejudice. The court went on to say that if there is a disagreement between the two, Section 125 takes precedence. It makes it plain that the provisions of Section 125 and the Muslim Personal Law do not conflict when it comes to the Muslim husband’s responsibility to give maintenance for a divorced wife who is unable to support herself.
  • In this case, the Supreme Court correctly held that because a Muslim husband’s obligation to his divorced wife is limited to the degree of “Iddat” period, even though this circumstance does not contemplate the rule of law stated in Section 125 of CrPc., 1973, the husband’s obligation to pay maintenance to the wife extends beyond the iddat period if the wife is living with him. The court went on to say that this regulation, according to Muslim law, was against humanity or incorrect because a divorced woman was unable to support herself.
  • After a lengthy legal battle, the Supreme Court eventually decided that if a divorced woman is competent to care for herself, the husbands’ legal duty ends. However, if the wife is unable to support herself after the Iddat period, she will be entitled to maintenance or alimony under Section 125 of the CrPC.
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Reasons

Does Section 125 of the Code apply to Muslims, and does the term “WIFE” encompass a divorced Muslim woman?

“The religion espoused by a spouse or by the spouses has no place within the scheme of these provisions,” the SC stated, citing Section 125 of the CrPC. Whether the couples be Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis, pagans, or heathens has no bearing on the implementation of these rules.

Section 125 of the CrPC, not the Civil Laws, defines and governs the rights and commitments of parties adhering to certain faiths, such as the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, the Shariat, or the Parsi Matrimonial Act.

Section 125 was enacted to give a group of people who are unable to care for themselves a quick and simple remedy…” 

“There are no words of limitation in clause (b) of the Explanation to section 125(1), which defines ‘WIFE’ as including a divorced wife, to justify the exclusion of Muslim women from its reach. The nature of Section 125 is essentially secular.” 

As a result, the code applies to all religions, including Muslims.

According to paragraph 9 of the ruling, “‘Woman’ implies a wife as defined, regardless of the faith claimed by her or her husband.” As a result, until she remarries, a divorced Muslim woman is considered a “wife” under section 125 of the law.

The provisions of the personal law that apply to her have no bearing on the statutory right that she has under it.”

This clarifies the fact that the term “wife” encompasses divorced women as well.

Is it true that Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code trumps personal law or not?

In response to the current query, the Court provided the following example of Islamic polygamy law: “A Mahomedan may have as many as four wives at the same time, but not more,” it is well-known. If he marries a fifth woman after having four, the marriage is not null and invalid, but it is irregular.”

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“The explanation confers upon the woman the right to refuse to remain together with her husband if he forms another marriage, let alone three or four additional marriages,” the court went on to say.

It unmistakably demonstrates that section 125 supersedes personal law in the event of a conflict.”

Is there any conflict between Section 125 and Muslim Personal Law laws regarding the Muslim husband’s obligation to support the maintenance of his divorced wife?

“The appellant’s claim that his responsibility to pay for the support of his divorced wife is prescribed only to the term of iddat, even if she is unable to sustain herself, has, therefore, to be rejected,” the court said in response to this suggestion.

The truth is that if the divorced woman can support herself, the husband’s obligation to support her ends after the iddat term expires. She has the right to use Section 125 of the CrPC if she is unable to support herself.

As a consequence of this discussion, there is no conflict between Section 125 and the Muslim Personal Law on the issue of a Muslim husband’s need to provide maintenance for a divorced spouse who is unable to support herself.”

Is the payment of Mehar by the husband on divorce sufficient to release him from any duty to give the wife maintenance?

“…The payment of illusory sums (referring to ‘Mehar’) using customary or personal law need is to be regarded within the lowering of maintenance rate but cannot destroy that rate unless it is an acceptable substitute,” Justice Krishna Iyer said in Bai Tahira.

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“There is no escape from the conclusion that a divorced Muslim woman is allowed to seek for maintenance under section 125, and Mehar isn’t an amount which, under Muslim Personal Law, is due on divorce,” the Supreme Court said in this case.

Outcome

Article 44 of the Constitution’s Directive Principles mandates the state to create a Uniform Civil Code for its inhabitants throughout India’s territory. In his decision, C.J. Chandrachud stressed the need of putting the law into practice.

“A uniform civil code will assist national unity by reducing different allegiance to laws with opposing ideologies,” he added. If the Constitution is to have any significance, it must start somewhere.” This mimicked the Indian discussion over the Uniform Civil Code.

Many Muslims, particularly Muslim academics, have questioned Shah Bano’s case decision. They saw this judgment as a violation of the Quran’s and Islamic Laws’/Islam’s principles. Following that, in 1986, the Indian Parliament passed the Muslim Women (Protection Of Rights Of Divorce) Act.

The primary goal of this measure was to protect the rights of divorced Muslim women and those who had divorced their spouses.

As a result of this act:

  • Muslim divorced women should be entitled to appropriate and reasonable support till the end of the Iddat period.
  • When a divorced woman raises a child born to her before, during, or after the divorce, her spouse is legally obligated to provide a specific amount of maintenance for the kid for two years from the child’s birth date. 
  • Women can also get “Mehar” or “dower,” which allows them to reclaim all of the property or estate that has been handed to them by their guardians, companions, relatives, spouse, or husband’s acquaintances.

Conclusion

Even though the court took a long time to reach a judgment, the rejection of the appeal is significant because it maintains the truth and trust of citizens in the courts. This decision has highlighted the need for maintenance, which should be provided to divorced Muslim women who are unable to earn and sustain themselves.

The Shah Bano ruling drew a lot of criticism, with authority entities opposing the decision since it violated Islamic law requirements. However, the Supreme Court issued an unbiased judgment, restoring residents’ confidence and faith in the court.

This resulted in the 1986 passage of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, which allowed Muslim women to receive a large, one-time payment from their husbands during the period of Iddat, rather than a monthly payment of no more than $500 — a restriction that has since been removed.

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