MAINTENANCE TO MUSLIM WIFE

Discuss the Right to maintenance of a Muslim wife under Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure,
1973 and Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

To get a maintenance from husband is a basic right of a wife and it is duty of husband to provide sufficient amount of money to wife for her sustenance. Here the word ‘sustenance’ does not mean mere animal existence but it means living a healthy and a dignified life. The basic purpose behind providing maintenance to wife is to protect her from destitution and vagrancy and to provide her financial support.

Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 deals with the provisions regarding maintenance. According to this section, a legally wedded wife can claim maintenance from her husband if he has sufficient means and he refuses to pay maintenance to her and Judicial Magistrate First Class officer has power to order husband to pay a sufficient amount of money to his wife.

In case of Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs. Shah Banu Begum (AIR 1985 SC 945),
Hon’ble Supreme Court held that, “Section 125 of Cr.P.C., 1973 is a secular section and it is applicable upon women of every religion. Here word “legally wedded wife” has been used and this word also includes Muslim women. Hence Muslim women can claim maintenance from her husband under this section. According to Supreme Court, this section does not include any religion and the main aim of this section is to protect women from destitution and vagrancy if she is unable to maintain herself.
But, to overrule this judgment, the Government of India enacted “The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

According to this act, a husband is liable to pay fair and reasonable maintenance to his wife during iddat period only and if before the enactment of this act any application has been filed under section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, that application will automatically be converted into an application under this act after the enactment of this act if the abovesaid application is pending before the court. Moreover, according to this act, if both husband and wife wants that their application should be disposed of under section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure then they have to file a joint affidavit before the court.

This act was challenged before the Supreme Court on the ground of violating Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India. But the Supreme Court held this act constitutionally valid and interpreted this act liberally so as to provide maximum benefits to the Muslim women. The Supreme Court held that under this act Muslim women can claim maintenance during iddat period only and husband has to give maintenance during this period but he will have to give maintenance for the whole life of his wife. It simply means he will give maintenance for the future of his wife within the iddat period.

On the other hand, if they decide that their application should be disposed of under section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, then he has to give maintenance to his wife monthly or periodically.
Hence, it is clear that Muslim women can claim maintenance for the whole life
i.e. for future during the iddat period under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 and she can also claim maintenance under section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure if both husband and wife files a joint affidavit before the court that their application should be disposed of under this section.

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