Flashback to Shah Bano case as Muslim woman wins alimony battle

A legal wrangle that lasted for 12 years has finally worked out in favour of Salma, a divorced woman who sought alimony from her ex-husband by instituting her case under the rarely used Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 a statute that was enacted in the wake of the SC judgement in the Shah Bano case.

Several lawyers told her to move her petition under the provision of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC)-- a widely used law for seeking maintenance. Salma, however, had faith in the specific law that, like in any other religion, obligated a husband to make fair provisions for the future of his divorced wife and minor child. Her belief in the law has finally been upheld with a Delhi court, in a rare order, directing her former husband Rahim to pay her Rs 9 lakh in maintenance along with money worth 20 tolas of gold. Metropolitan Magistrate Twinkle Wadhwa held that it was the duty of a Muslim man to pay maintenance to his divorced wife.

Citing a landmark Supreme Court judgment, the magistrate further observed that alimony to a divorced wife was not confined to the period of Iddat (the waiting period following the divorce within which a woman cannot remarry) and a Muslim husband was fastened with a legal duty to make provisions for her.

The judgment assumes significance, as it is not only one-of-its kind because of the quantum of maintenance but also because it is based on the statutory provisions of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, which is sparingly used owing to lack of its knowledge even among lawyers. The Act was enacted in May 1986 in the wake of the Shah Bano judgment upholding the right of Muslim women to seek maintenance under the CrPC. The Act had diluted the Supreme Court judgment and, among other things, stipulated that the maintenance to a divorced woman be given only during the period of Iddat or till 90 days after the divorce according to the provisions of Islamic law.

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