Muslim women can get maintenance under CrPC's Section 125, secular law will prevail: SC

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New Delhi: In a judgment of far-reaching implications, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a Muslim woman can seek maintenance from her husband under Section 125 of the CrPC and said the "religion neutral" provision is applicable to all married women irrespective of their religion.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 will not prevail over the secular law, a bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih said while stressing that maintenance is not charity but the right of all married women. "We are hereby dismissing the criminal appeal with the major conclusion that Section 125 would be applicable to all women...," Justice Nagarathna said while pronouncing the verdict.

“The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 will not prevail over the secular and religion neutral provision of Section 125 of CrPC,” the bench said.

The two judges gave separate but concurring verdicts.

The erstwhile Code of Criminal Procedure's Section 125, which deals with a wife's legal right to maintenance, covers Muslim women, the bench said. The apex court dismissed the petition of a Mohammed Abdul Samad, who has challenged a Telangana High Court order refusing to interfere with the maintenance order of the family court.

He contended that a divorced Muslim woman is not entitled for maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC and has to invoke the provisions of the 1986 Act.

The bench had reserved its verdict on February 19 after hearing senior advocate Wasim Qadri for the petitioner. It had appointed advocate Gaurav Agarwal as amicus curiae in the matter to assist the court.

Qadri had submitted that the 1986 Act is more beneficial to Muslim woman as compared to Section 125 of the CrPC.

On December 13, 2023, the high court did not set aside the direction of the family court for payment of interim maintenance by Samad to his estranged wife but reduced the amount from Rs 20,000 to Rs 10,000 per month, to be paid from the date of petition.

Samad contended before the high court that they got divorced in accordance with personal laws in 2017 and there was a divorce certificate to that effect, but it was not considered by the Family Court, which ordered for payment of interim maintenance.

Aggrieved by the high court’s order, Samad approached the top court.