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Supreme Court Affirms Maintenance Rights for Divorced Muslim Women Under Section 125 CrPC

Supreme Court Affirms Maintenance Rights for Divorced Muslim Women Under Section 125 CrPC

The Supreme Court of India recently ruled that divorced Muslim women are entitled to seek maintenance from their former husbands under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). This decision clarifies the interplay between secular law and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, emphasizing that the secular law provisions will apply to all women irrespective of religious affiliation.

Case Background: The case involved a petition by a Muslim man challenging the directive to pay interim maintenance to his divorced wife under Section 125 CrPC. The petitioner contended that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 should prevail over the CrPC, arguing that the Act provided a comprehensive framework for maintenance, including provisions for mehr, dower, and property return.

Court’s Reasoning: Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih delivered separate but concurring judgments. They emphasized that Section 125 CrPC, a secular law, is designed to provide maintenance to all women, regardless of their marital status or religion. The Court asserted that the 1986 Act does not override the CrPC but serves as an additional remedy.

Arguments Presented:

  • Petitioner’s Arguments: The petitioner’s counsel argued that the 1986 Act is a special law intended to offer more extensive protection than Section 125 CrPC, which is a general law. They highlighted provisions in the Act that deal comprehensively with maintenance and other financial aspects of a divorced woman’s life, suggesting that the Act should supersede Section 125 CrPC.
  • Amicus Curiae’s Arguments: Senior Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, serving as amicus curiae, argued that the 1986 Act only extends the maintenance period beyond iddat but does not preclude the applicability of Section 125 CrPC. He stressed that the CrPC’s purpose of providing maintenance should not be undermined by the Act.

Court Observations: The Court noted that Section 3 of the 1986 Act begins with a non-obstante clause, indicating it does not derogate from what is provided under Section 125 CrPC but offers an additional remedy. The Justices observed that there is no statutory provision in the 1986 Act that explicitly bars the application of Section 125 CrPC for divorced Muslim women.

Conclusion: The Supreme Court’s decision reinforces the applicability of Section 125 CrPC to all women, including divorced Muslim women, ensuring they have the right to seek maintenance. This ruling underscores the Court’s commitment to upholding secular law provisions to protect the rights and welfare of women across all communities.

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