‘Divorced Muslim Women Entitled to Seek Maintenance from her Husband Under Sec 125 of CrPC’: SC

Muslim Women

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a Muslim woman can seek maintenance from her husband under Section 125 of the CrPC, emphasizing that the “religion-neutral” provision applies to all married women regardless of their religion.

The bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih clarified that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 does not override this secular law. They stressed that maintenance is a right, not charity, for all married women. “We are hereby dismissing the criminal appeal with the major conclusion that Section 125 would be applicable to all women,” Justice Nagarathna stated while pronouncing the verdict.

The bench confirmed that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 will not prevail over the secular and religion-neutral provisions of Section 125 of the CrPC. The two judges delivered separate but concurring verdicts.

The ruling reaffirmed that the erstwhile Code of Criminal Procedure’s Section 125, which addresses a wife’s legal right to maintenance, includes Muslim women. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition of Mohammed Abdul Samad, who had challenged a Telangana High Court order that refused to interfere with a family court’s maintenance order.

Samad argued that a divorced Muslim woman is not entitled to maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC and must rely on the provisions of the 1986 Act. The bench had reserved its verdict on February 19 after hearing senior advocate Wasim Qadri for the petitioner and appointed advocate Gaurav Agarwal as amicus curiae to assist the court.

Qadri had contended that the 1986 Act provides more benefits to Muslim women compared to Section 125 of the CrPC. On December 13, 2023, the high court did not overturn the family court’s directive for Samad to pay interim maintenance but reduced the amount from Rs 20,000 to Rs 10,000 per month, effective from the date of the petition.

Samad argued before the high court that their divorce, finalized in accordance with personal laws in 2017 and supported by a divorce certificate, was not considered by the Family Court, which had ordered interim maintenance. Dissatisfied with the high court’s decision, Samad approached the Supreme Court.

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