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Muslim Women Can Seek Maintenance from Husband Under Section 125 CrPC: Supreme Court Ruling

Muslim Women Can Seek Maintenance from Husband Under Section 125 CrPC: Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court of India has affirmed that Muslim women can file for maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). This landmark decision ensures that Muslim women have the same rights to seek maintenance as women of other religions, reinforcing the secular nature of the Indian legal system.

Supreme Court Verdict

On July 10, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih dismissed a Muslim man’s petition challenging an interim maintenance order in favor of his divorced wife under Section 125 CrPC. The court clarified that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, does not override the provisions of Section 125 CrPC.

Justice Nagarathna’s Statement

“We are dismissing the criminal appeal with the conclusion that Section 125 CrPC applies to all women, not just married women,” Justice Nagarathna declared, emphasizing the inclusive nature of the provision.

The Court’s Clarification

The bench explained that if a Muslim woman is divorced during the pendency of a Section 125 CrPC petition, she can also seek recourse under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019. This indicates that the remedies under the 2019 Act are supplementary to those available under Section 125 CrPC.

Background of the Case

For a comprehensive understanding of the facts of the case and the issues involved, refer to the detailed background of the proceedings. Senior Advocate S Wasim A Qadri, representing the petitioner-husband, presented several arguments against the applicability of Section 125 CrPC to Muslim women.

Contentions Raised by the Petitioner-Husband

  1. Special Law Argument: The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, is a special law that provides more comprehensive benefits than Section 125 CrPC, including provisions for mehr (dower) and property return.
  2. Codification of Supreme Court Ruling: The 1986 Act was enacted to codify the Supreme Court’s judgment in Mohd Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, intending to override Section 125 CrPC for divorced Muslim women.
  3. Prevailing Special Law: The petitioner argued that special laws should prevail over general laws like CrPC, asserting that the 1986 Act’s language is clear and should be strictly adhered to.
  4. Exclusive Remedies: According to Section 5 of the 1986 Act, a divorced couple could opt-out of the Act’s provisions, indicating that a Muslim woman cannot seek remedies under both laws.
  5. Transitional Provisions: Section 7 of the Act mandates that pending Section 125 CrPC petitions at the time of the Act’s commencement should be adjudicated under Section 3 of the Act.

Counterarguments by the Amicus Curiae

Senior Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, appointed as Amicus Curiae, offered counterpoints to the petitioner’s claims:

  1. Purpose of the Act: The 1986 Act extends a divorced Muslim woman’s entitlement to maintenance beyond the iddat period without negating her rights under Section 125 CrPC.
  2. Misinterpretation of Section 5: Section 5 applies when an application is filed under Section 3 of the Act. The respondent-wife in this case approached the court under Section 125 CrPC.
  3. Transitional Nature of Section 7: Section 7 is a transitional provision and does not prohibit the filing of new Section 125 CrPC petitions.
  4. Supreme Court Validation: In Danial Latifi & Anr v. Union Of India, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the 1986 Act while questioning how it could deprive Muslim divorced women of the rights available to other women.
  5. Fact-Finding by Courts: Under Section 127(3)(b) CrPC, courts must determine if a provision under personal law exists before a husband can avoid maintenance liability.
  6. Judicial Clarity Needed: Different High Courts have varied interpretations, necessitating a clear judicial stance. Some courts have ruled that women must choose between the two remedies, which the Amicus contends is incorrect.

Court Observations

During the hearing, the Supreme Court bench remarked that Section 3 of the 1986 Act starts with a non-obstante clause, indicating it is an additional remedy rather than a replacement for Section 125 CrPC.

Justice Masih’s Observation

“This Act does not bar…it is the choice of the person who had applied or moved an application under 125…there is no statutory provision under the 1986 Act that says 125 is not maintainable,” Justice Masih noted.


The Supreme Court’s decision reinforces the rights of Muslim women to seek maintenance under Section 125 CrPC, ensuring they are not deprived of this legal recourse. The court dismissed the argument that the 1986 Act overrides Section 125 CrPC, maintaining that both laws provide complementary remedies.

This judgment marks a significant step in upholding the secular principles of Indian law and protecting the rights of Muslim women. The final written judgment is awaited for further details and clarifications.


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