Allahabad High Court: Pradeep Kumar Srivastava, J., while addressing the present matter, observed that:
… right of maintenance available to wife from husband is an absolute right and even divorce cannot affect this right unless the wife is disqualified on account of remarriage or her sufficient earning.
It was also observed:
Gender justice is a constitutional promise and the provision of maintenance provided under Section 125 of the Code is one of the tools to translate the constitutional promise into social reality. Moreover, Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees every person a right to live with dignity and a dignified life is not possible unless a fair and reasonable provision is made by the husband towards the maintenance of his divorced wife. Therefore, while interpreting and applying this beneficial legislation, the Constitutional vision of equality, liberty and justice, more particularly social justice to the women and marginalized sections of society, must be present when the courts are dealing with an application of destitute wife or helpless children and aged and infirm parents. Social justice adjudication or social context adjudication requires application of equality jurisprudence where the parties to a litigation are unequally situated in terms of socio-economic structure and dilution of the technical procedure often followed in adversarial system.
Instant criminal revision was preferred against the impugned judgment passed by Family Court under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 by which OP 2 – Divorced Wife was awarded Rs 3,000 as maintenance.
Before the Court below, the wife gave an application under Section 125 CrPC stating that she was married to revisionist according to the Muslim Personal Law and later during the course of her marriage, her husband and his family demanded motorcycle, refrigerator and dowry and on non-fulfilment of the same, she was beaten up and expelled along with her daughter. On being expelled she along with her daughter started living with her parents.
The wife was totally dependent on her father, later after the death of her father she was facing financial trouble and was not able to maintain herself, hence she claimed maintenance.
Present revision was filed by the husband challenging the impugned judgment on the ground that earlier a case under Section 125 CrPC for maintenance which was filed by wife was decided wherein the maintenance claim of the wife was rejected on the ground that being Muslim she was not entitled for maintenance after divorce beyond period of iddat and by this impugned judgment, the said judgment has been reviewed, which is contrary to law.
Revisionist’s Counsel contended that divorced Muslim wife is not entitled to maintenance under the law applicable to parties and the subsequent application is barred by the principle of res judicata.
In Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, (1985) 2 SCC 556, the issue before the court was that where a Muslim woman had been divorced by her husband and paid her mahr, would it indemnify the husband from his obligation to pay maintenance under the provisions of Section 125 CrPC. A five-Judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that the Code of Criminal Procedure controls the proceedings in such matters and overrides the personal law of the parties and in case of conflict between the terms of the Code and the rights and obligations of the individuals under personal law, the Code would prevail.
In the above-cited case, the important feature of the case was that the wife had managed the matrimonial home for more than 40 years and had borne and reared five children and was incapable of taking up any career or independently supporting herself at that late stage of her life and remarriage was an impossibility in that case. The husband, a successful Advocate, with an approximate income of Rs 5,000 per month provided Rs 200 per month to the divorced wife, who had shared his life for half a century and mothered his five children and was in desperate need of money to survive.
Supreme Court interpreted the provisions of the Act and Section 125 CrPC in such a way as to give recognition to the right of divorced Muslim wife to claim maintenance under Section 125 even for the period beyond iddat period and for the whole life unless she is disqualified for the reasons such as entering into marriage with someone else.
Hence, in view of the above Court found no force in the argument that a divorced Muslim wife is not entitled to maintenance beyond the iddat period.
Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been enacted to achieve a social object and the object is to prevent vagrancy and destitution and to provide speedy remedy to deserted or divorced wife, minor children and infirm parents in terms of food, clothing and shelter and minimum needs of one’s life.
Bench held that when the Supreme Court has interpreted and clarified the law and has laid down that the Muslim divorced wife can still claim maintenance under Section 125 CrPC despite the provisions of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, her claim cannot be defeated on the basis of an earlier decision of the court below and the earlier judgment cannot operate as res judicata.
Court while concluding its decision held that:
Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code has been enacted with a specific purpose to protect women and children and to prevent vagrancy and destitution among them. This law is not community-centric or religion centric and perhaps, one of the most secular enactment ever made in the country. It is an instrument of social justice and aims to render justice on the basis of equality to wife, in particular, may be divorced including a divorced Muslim wife.
In view of the above, the revision petition was dismissed and the Family Court’s decision was upheld. [Jubair Ahmad v. Ishrat Bano, 2019 SCC OnLine All 4065, decided on 18-10-2019]