India: Muslim women entitled to alimony after divorce, says Supreme Court

The top court said Section 125 of CrPC applies to all married women irrespective of religion, echoes contribution of homemakers


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Published: Wed 10 Jul 2024, 7:50 PM

Last updated: Wed 10 Jul 2024, 10:05 PM

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Section 125 Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) applied to all married women — including Muslim married women — and they can claim maintenance from their husbands under these provisions.

The top court also echoed that time has come for Indian men to recognise the role and sacrifice of 'homemakers' who are strength and backbone of an Indian family and they must provide financial support to her by having having joint accounts and ATMs

A bench of justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih ruled that Section 125 CrPC, which deals with wife's legal right to maintenance, is applicable to all women and divorced Muslim female can claim maintenance from her husband under it.

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"Section 125 of the CrPC applies to all married women including Muslim married women. Section 125 of the CrPC applies to all non-Muslim divorced women," the top court said.

"Insofar as divorced Muslim women are concerned, - i) Section 125 of the CrPC applies to all such Muslim women, married and divorced under the Special Marriage Act in addition to remedies available under the Special Marriage Act. If Muslim women are married and divorced under Muslim law, then Section 125 of the CrPC as well as the provisions of the 1986 Act are applicable. Option lies with the Muslim divorced women to seek remedy under either of the two laws or both laws. This is because the 1986 Act is not in derogation of Section 125 of the CrPC but in addition to the said provision," the top court said.

The top court's ruling came on an appeal challenging the High Court of Telangana order dated December 13, 2023 which modified the family court decision. HC decreased the quantum of interim maintenance payable by the Appellant herein from Rs 20,000 per month to 10,000 per month.

Senior Advocate S Wasim A Qadri along with advocate Saeed Qadri appeared for the husband in the matter.The man has challenged the maintenance amount saying that the section 125 is not maintainable in the view of section 3,4 and 5 of Muslim women ( protection of rights of divorce) Act 1986.

The top court said that the High Court of Telangana, while modifying the Order of the Family Court, was correct in upholding the maintainability of the petition filed under Section 125 of CrPC and therefore, there is no infirmity in its impugned order dated December 13 2023.

In his judgement, Justice BV Nagarathna pointed out the vulnerability of married women in India who do not have an independent source of income or who do not have access to monetary resources in their households particularly for their personal expenses.

"In the case of a woman who has an independent source of income, she may be financially endowed and may not be totally dependent on her husband and his family," Justice BV Nagarathna said.

"But what is the position of a married woman who is often referred to as a "homemaker" and who does not have an independent source of income, whatsoever, and is totally dependent for her financial resources on her husband and on his family? It is well-known that such an Indian homemaker tries to save as much money as possible from the monthly household budget, not only to augment the financial resources of the family but possibly to also save a small portion for her personal expenses. Such a practice is followed in order to avoid making a request to the husband or his family for her personal expenses," Justice BV Nagarathna said.

"Most married men in India do not realise this aspect of the predicament such Indian homemakers face as any request made for expenses may be bluntly turned down by the husband and/or his family. Some husbands are not conscious of the fact that the wife who has no independent source of finance is dependent on them not only emotionally but also financially," Justice BV Nagarathna said.

"Therefore, I observe that an Indian married man must become conscious of the fact that he would have to financially empower and provide for his wife, who does not have an independent source of income, by making available financial resources particularly towards her personal needs; in other words, giving access to his financial resources. Such financial empowerment would place such a vulnerable wife in a more secure position in the family," the top court said.

"Thus, both 'financial security' as well as 'security of residence' of Indian women have to be protected and enhanced. That would truly empower such Indian women who are referred to as 'homemakers' and who are the strength and backbone of an Indian family which is the fundamental unit of the Indian society which has to be maintained and strengthened," the top court said.


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