Can a Muslim woman benefit from the provisions of Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which entitles destitute women from other religions to seek monthly maintenance from their divorced husbands?
Acting on a petition raising this legal query, the Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the state of Andhra Pradesh. The petitioner has challenged an Andhra Pradesh High Court order directing him to pay maintenance to his divorced wife under the CrPC provision, even though the iddat period is over. Under Muslim personal law, the iddat period is the 40 days between the day the husband pronounces talaq and the day it attains finality.
According to Mohammad Khaleel Ahmed, he is required to pay maintenance to his ex-wife under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 and not the CrPc law, which mandates monthly maintenance to a destitute woman.
Under the Muslim personal laws, a husband has to pay the wife a one-time maintenance along with meher. However, as directed by the Supreme Court, the one-time maintenance includes the long-term expenses a divorced woman is likely to incur after separation.
In his petition before the Supreme Court, Ahmed has challenged the high court order rejecting his contention and directed him to pay monthly maintenance of Rs 500 to the wife and Rs 300 to his child.
According to Ahmed, he divorced his wife on April 5, 2000. Immediately after the 40 days were over, the wife filed a maintenance case under section 125 of the CrPc even as Ahmed filed a petition before a family court seeking divorce. On April 19, 2001, a magistrate passed orders directing Ahmed to pay the monthly maintenance.
However, when he won his divorce case on January 24, 2002, he moved an application before the magistrate stating he was not entitled to pay monthly maintenance after the expiry of the iddat period. His contention was upheld by the magistrate but later reversed by a sessions court. In July last year, the high court held that Ahmed's contention was not maintainable and dismissed his petition.