Husband’s liability is not limited to iddat period: Bench
In a significant verdict, the Supreme Court has held that a Muslim woman will be entitled to maintenance from her husband even after divorce and she can file an application before a magistrate court.
Quoting an earlier Constitution Bench verdict, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Vikramajit Sen said: “A Muslim husband is liable to make a reasonable and fair provision for the future of the divorced wife which obviously includes her maintenance as well.” Such a reasonable and fair provision extending beyond the iddat period must be made by the husband within the iddat period. His liability, arising from Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act to pay maintenance, “is not confined to the iddat period.”
(Iddat is the waiting period after a declaration of divorce.)
Writing the judgment, Justice Misra said: “A divorced Muslim woman who has not remarried and who is not able to maintain herself after the iddat period can proceed as provided under Section 4 of the Act against his relatives, who are liable to maintain her.”
The Bench said: “An aspect which has to be kept uppermost in mind is that when the marriage breaks up, a woman suffers emotional fractures, fragmentation of sentiments, loss of economic and social security and, in certain cases, inadequate requisites for survival. A marriage is fundamentally a unique bond between two parties. When it perishes like a mushroom, the dignity of the female fame gets corroded. It is the law’s duty to recompense, and the primary obligation is that of the husband. Needless to emphasise, the entitlement and the necessitous provisions have to be made in accordance with the parameters of law.”
In the instant case, Shamim Bano and Asraf Khan were married on November 17, 1993 in accordance with the Sharia law. But Shamim left his house alleging cruelty by him. Even as her application for grant of maintenance was pending, divorce took place on May 5, 1997. A magistrate, while rejecting her plea for maintenance taking into consideration that during the pendency of the case, the couple were granted divorce, directed Khan and others to pay her Rs.11,786 towards mahr (a form of dowry), to return goods and ornaments and Rs.1,750 towards maintenance only for the iddat period. This was upheld by the Chhattisgarh High Court.
Allowing her appeal against this order, the Supreme Court Bench held that Shamim was entitled to maintenance even after divorce. It remitted the matter back to the trial court for fresh disposal in the light of this judgment.