Law & Judiciary

    SC rules Section 125 CrPC applies to Muslim married woman for claiming maintenance, echoes contribution of homemakers

    The Hawk
    July10/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    This landmark decision underscores the importance of recognizing and financially supporting homemakers, who are the backbone of Indian families.

    Muslim woman

    New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that Section 125 Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) applied to all married women including Muslim married women and they can claim maintenance from their husbands under these provisions.
    The top court also echoed that time has come for Indian men to recognise the role and sacrifice of 'homemakers' who are strength and backbone of an Indian family and they must provide financial support to her by having having joint accounts and ATMs
    A bench of justices BV Nagarathna and Augustine George Masih ruled that Section 125 CrPC, which deals with wife's legal right to maintenance, is applicable to all women and divorced muslim female can claim maintenance from her husband under it.
    "Section 125 of the CrPC applies to all married women including Muslim married women. Section 125 of the CrPC applies to all non-Muslim divorced women," the top court said.
    "Insofar as divorced Muslim women are concerned, - i) Section 125 of the CrPC applies to all such Muslim women, married and divorced under the Special Marriage Act in addition to remedies available under the Special Marriage Act. If Muslim women are married and divorced under Muslim law then Section 125 of the CrPC as well as the provisions of the 1986 Act are applicable. Option lies with the Muslim divorced women to seek remedy under either of the two laws or both laws. This is because the 1986 Act is not in derogation of Section 125 of the CrPC but in addition to the said provision," the top court said.
    If Section 125 of the CrPC is also resorted to by a divorced Muslim woman, as per the definition under the 1986 Act, then any order passed under the provisions of 1986 Act shall be taken into consideration under Section 127(3)(b) of the CrPC, the court said.
    The 1986 Act could be resorted to by a divorced Muslim woman, as defined under the said act, by filing an application thereunder which could be disposed off in accordance with the said enactment, the court said.

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    In case of an illegal divorce as per the provisions of the 2019 Act then, relief under Section 5 of the said Act could be availed for seeking subsistence allowance or, at the option of such a Muslim woman, remedy under Section 125 of the CrPC could also be availed, the court said.
    Adding further to it, the top court directed if during the pendency of a petition filed under Section 125 of the CrPC, a Muslim woman is 'divorced' then she can take recourse under Section 125 of the CrPC or file a petition under the 2019 Act.
    "The provisions of the 2019 Act provide remedy in addition to and not in derogation of Section 125 of the CrPC," the top court said.
    The top court's ruling came on an appeal challenging the High Court of Telangana order dated December 13, 2023 which modified the family court decision. HC decreased the quantum of interim maintenance payable by the Appellant herein from Rs 20,000 per month to 10,000 per month.
    Senior Advocate S Wasim A Qadri along with advocate Saeed Qadri appeared for the husband in the matter.The man has challenged the maintenance amount saying that the section 125 is not maintainable in the view of section 3,4 and 5 of muslim women ( protection of rights of divorce) Act 1986.
    The top court said that the High Court of Telangana, while modifying the Order of the Family Court, was correct in upholding the maintainability of the petition filed under Section 125 of CrPC and therefore, there is no infirmity in its impugned order dated December 13 2023.
    Senior Advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who appeared as amicus curiae, eventually went on to submit that the remedy under a secular statutory provision of Section 125 of CrPC 1973 is not foreclosed for a divorced Muslim woman by virtue of enactment of a personal law remedy under Section 3 of the 1986 Act to the limited extent of maintenance, as the latter does not in any manner, expressly or by necessary implication, bar the exercise of former remedy.
    "Unequivocally, the most appropriate construction of these secular provisions of CrPC 1973 in regard to the right of maintenance is that the legislature would never intend that an undue benefit is derived after the end of the marital relationship between the parties concerned. Hence, the provision of Section 127(3)(b) of CrPC 1973 would act in the nature of a proviso to the right provided under Section 125 of CrPC 1973 only in such a circumstance where sufficient means of livelihood after the divorce, and the provisions contemplating the future needs of divorced Muslim women, stands provided to the satisfaction of the court concerned," the order copy read.
    "We are inclined to conclude that equivalent rights of maintenance ascertained under both, the secular provision of Section 125 of CrPC 1973, and the personal law provision of Section 3 of the 1986 Act, parallelly exist in their distinct domains and jurisprudence. Thereby, leading to their harmonious construction and continued existence of the right to seek maintenance for a divorced Muslim woman under the provisions of CrPC 1973 despite the enactment of the 1986 Act," the order copy said.
    In a concurring judgement, Justice BV Nagarathna pointed out the vulnerability of married women in India who do not have an independent source of income or who do not have access to monetary resources in their households particularly for their personal expenses.
    In Indian society, it is an established practice that once a daughter is married, she resides with her husband and/or his family unless due to exigency of career or such other reason she has to reside elsewhere, Justice BV Nagarathna said
    "In the case of a woman who has an independent source of income, she may be financially endowed and may not be totally dependent on her husband and his family,"
    Justice BV Nagarathna said.
    "But what is the position of a married woman who is often referred to as a "homemaker" and who does not have an independent source of income, whatsoever, and is totally dependent for her financial resources on her husband and on his family? It is well-known that such an Indian homemaker tries to save as much money as possible from the monthly household budget, not only to augment the financial resources of the family but possibly to also save a small portion
    for her personal expenses. Such a practice is followed in order to avoid making a request to the husband or his family for her personal expenses," Justice BV Nagarathna said.
    "Most married men in India do not realise this aspect of the predicament such Indian homemakers face as any request made for expenses may be bluntly turned down
    by the husband and/or his family. Some husbands are not conscious of the fact that the wife who has no independent source of finance is dependent on them not only emotionally but also financially," Justice BV Nagarathna said.
    "On the other hand, a wife who is referred to as a homemaker is working throughout the day for the welfare of the family without expecting anything in return except possibly love and affection, a sense of comfort and respect from her husband and his family which are towards her emotional security. This may also be lacking in certain households," the top court said
    "Therefore, I observe that an Indian married man must become conscious of the fact that he would have to financially empower and provide for his wife, who does not have an independent source of income, by making available financial resources particularly towards her personal needs; in other words, giving access to his financial resources. Such financial empowerment would place such a vulnerable wife in a more secure position in the family," the top court said.
    "Those Indian married men who are conscious of this aspect and who make available their financial resources for their spouse towards their personal expenses, apart from household expenditure, possibly by having a joint bank account or via an ATM card, must be acknowledged," the top court said.
    "Thus, both 'financial security' as well as 'security of residence' of Indian women have to be protected and enhanced. That would truly empower such Indian women who are referred to as 'homemakers' and who are the strength and backbone of an Indian family which is the fundamental unit of the Indian society which has to be maintained and strengthened," the top court said.
    "It goes without saying that a stable family which is emotionally connected and secure gives stability to society for, it is within the family that precious values of life are learned and built. It is these moral and ethical values which are inherited by a succeeding generation which would go a long way in building a strong Indian society which is the need of the hour," the apex court said.
    "It is needless to observe that a strong Indian family and society would ultimately lead to a stronger nation. But, for that to happen, women in the family have to be respected and empowered!," the top court said.