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Supreme Court’s Verdict: Maintenance Rights of Divorced Muslim Women – A Legal Turning Point!

In a legal showdown that could reshape the rights of divorced Muslim women, the Supreme Court is poised to deliver a groundbreaking decision on whether the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, bars them from seeking maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC, 1973. The case came to the forefront during an appeal by Mohd Abdul Samad, who was directed to pay ₹20,000 monthly maintenance to his ex-wife by a Telangana family court.

Contrary to assumptions, the Supreme Court remarked, ‘The Act does not say no petition under Section 125 shall be filed by Muslim women.’ Justice B V Nagarathna, heading a two-judge bench, questioned the absence of such a restriction in the Act, prompting reflection on potential implications.

Samad’s ex-wife, invoking Section 125 of the CrPC, alleged triple talaq, leading to a High Court decision on 13 December 2023, directing interim maintenance of ₹10,000. Samad, challenging this, argued that the 1986 Act, being a Special Act, should override Section 125 Cr.P.C, a general Act, citing Sections 3 and 4 with non-obstante clauses.

Gaurav Agarwal, appointed as amicus curiae, asserted, ‘According to me, Section 125 proceedings are perfectly maintainable post Shah Bano also.’ He emphasised the need to interpret the 1986 Act to uphold divorced Muslim women’s maintenance rights under constitutional guarantees.

Senior Advocate S Wasim A Qadri, representing the ex-husband, questioned the necessity of the 1986 Act if Parliament intended Muslim women to file under Section 125. Justice Augustine George Masih noted the potential for clarity if the law explicitly restricted divorced Muslim women from moving under Section 125.

Qadri referred to Section 7 of the 1986 Act, stating that if a petition is filed under Section 3, the Magistrate will handle it. Justice Nagarathna clarified it pertains to pending cases, leading to a debate on the viability of filing new cases.

Agarwal referred to a Kerala High Court decision allowing both Section 125 (CrPC) and Section 3 (1986 Act) petitions, challenging the SC to clarify. Justice Nagarathna questioned whether divorced Muslim women could choose one or both options, dismissing the idea of it being optional.

As the legal community awaits the Supreme Court’s decision, this case marks a crucial juncture in defining the rights of divorced Muslim women and the interplay between specialised and general legal provisions.

Vakilsearch experts emphasise the need for clarity in laws governing divorced Muslim women’s maintenance. The intersection of the 1986 Act and CrPC demands a nuanced approach, ensuring justice prevails. If you are navigating complex legal battles then Vakilsearch is ready to help you out. Our expert team ensures clarity and assistance for individuals facing legal intricacies. Trust Vakilsearch for your legal journey.

Akash G Varadaraj