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Mohd.Ahmed Khan v/s Shah Bano Begum: Case Analysis

Facts of the case
Shah Bano, a Muslim woman, was divorced in November 1978 by her husband, Mohd. Ahmed Khan through 'triple talaq' because of an inheritance dispute between both parties. Shah Bano was given a sum of 3000 rupees, a pre-agreed Maher sum at iddat as directed by Muslim personal law.

On April 1978, she filed a criminal suit under section 127 of CrPC in the local court of Indore against her husband as he stopped giving her maintenance of 200 per month as promised and claimed 500 for herself and her five children. Following this, on November 1978, her husband exercised his right to irrevocable divorce, claiming that he no longer needed to provide maintenance to her.

On August 1979, he was directed by the local court to pay a sum of 25 rupees per month as maintenance to his ex-wife, which was increased to rupees 179.20 by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh after Shah Bano signed an application.

Following this, Ahmed Khan filed an appeal before the Apex court claiming that he no longer needs to provide for his ex-wife according to Muslim personal laws.

Court- Supreme Court of India
Bench- Hon'ble Chief Justice Chandrachud, Justice Ranganath Misra, Justice D.A. Desai, Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy, and Justice E.S Venkataramiah.
Citation- 1985 AIR 945, 1985 SCR (3) 844
Date of Judgement- 23 April 1985
Acts Referred- Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937
Section Referred: Section 125 and Section 127of CrPC
Section 2 of the Shariat Act

Issues Involved:
  • Whether section 127 of CrPC applicable to Muslims?
  • Whether section 125 of CrPC overrides Personal law?
  • Is mere payment of Mahr sufficient to relieve the husband from the need to pay maintenance?
  • Does the Muslim personal law impose no obligation upon the husband to provide for the maintenance of his divorced wife?
Arguments made by the Appellant
According to Muslim Personal law, a husband's liability for providing for the maintenance of his divorced wife is limited to the period of iddat, despite the fact that she cannot maintain herself.

Arguments made by the Respondent
Ex-husband is obliged to pay maintenance to his divorced wife if she is unable to sustain herself under Section 125 of CrPC.

The constitution bench of five judges dismissed the appeal and upheld the decision of Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The court held that if the wife is unable to maintain herself, she is entitled to take recourse to Section 125 of CrPC, which means that there is no conflict between Section 125 and Muslim personal law on the question of the husband's obligation to provide maintenance for a divorced wife. Verses 241 and 242 of the Quran show that there is an obligation on Muslim husbands to provide maintenance. It further ruled that CrPC would take precedence over Muslim personal law if there were an apparent discrepancy between the two.

Mahr is the sum of money or other that the wife is entitled to receive from her husband in consideration of the marriage. The fact that deferred Mahr is payable at the time of dissolution of marriage cannot justify the statement that it is on divorce.

The apex court also expressed regret that no strict action has yet been taken in order to maintain a Uniform Civil Code in the country, as mentioned in Article 44 of the Indian Constitution, which can play a major role in removing disparities having conflicting ideologies.

Aftermath the judgement
Muslims refused to recognize this ruling because it was inconsistent with Islamic law and the dictates of the Quran. Thus, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, was passed by the Indian Parliament in 1986 during the administration of then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The Act's main goal was to safeguard the rights of Muslim women who had recently experienced a divorce.

This was related to the Shah Bano case, and the Rajiv Gandhi administration annulled or overturned the Supreme Court's decision. According to the Act, divorced Muslim women shall be entitled to support that is both reasonable and sufficient up until the conclusion of the "iddat" period.

The husband is legally required to pay a specific amount of maintenance for the child for at least two years if a woman keeps a child born to her before or after divorce. If these benefits are not properly obtained, the victim may ask the court to grant her the necessary alimony or "Mehr," depending on the circumstances.

Nevertheless, The judgement given by the Hon'ble Court was a big step towards an egalitarian society. This landmark judgment recognized the rights of women and voiced their views as a mark of respecting women.

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