Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Examining Maintenance Rights of Divorced Muslim Women


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Section 125 of CrPC

Mains level: Personal Laws contradicting with Gender Equality


  • The Supreme Court’s scrutiny of maintenance entitlements for divorced Muslim women under Section 125 of the CrPC reignites the discourse on the supremacy of secular laws versus personal laws.
  • The ongoing case underscores the need for judicial clarity in navigating the intersection of religious rights and gender equality.

Maintenance Entitlements: Evolution  

  • Section 125 of CrPC codified to provide maintenance for destitute family members.
  • It includes divorced spouses, without religious distinction, subject to the Magistrate’s discretion.

Exception for Muslim Women

  • Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986: Introduced to address perceived conflicts with religious law post the Shah Bano case, offering maintenance during iddat and extending till remarriage.
  • Judicial Pronouncements: Varied interpretations emerged post Danial Latifi v. Union of India (2001), with courts affirming both CrPC and 1986 Act remedies for divorced Muslim women.

Case Background

  • Dispute Synopsis: Originating from a challenge by a Muslim man against a Telangana High Court directive for interim maintenance to his divorced wife under CrPC Section 125.
  • Legal Argument: Husband contends 1986 Act supersedes CrPC provisions, citing jurisdictional overlap and prior payment during iddat, while wife asserts her right to CrPC maintenance.

Court Proceedings and Observations

  • Interpretive Dilemma: Supreme Court underscores the non-obstante clause of the 1986 Act, preserving alternative remedies under CrPC.
  • Constitutional Imperatives: Justices emphasize constitutional guarantees of equality, rejecting the notion of legislative intent to bar Muslim women from CrPC relief.
  • Precedential Insight: Recent High Court decisions affirm divorced Muslim women’s right to CrPC maintenance, notwithstanding iddat completion or khula pronouncement.

Judgments Referenced in the Input

  • Danial Latifi v. Union Of India (2001): Upheld the constitutional validity of the 1986 Act, extending maintenance rights to divorced Muslim women till remarriage, albeit limited to the iddat period.
  • Arshiya Rizvi v. State of U.P. and Anr (2022): Allahabad High Court reaffirmed divorced Muslim women’s entitlement to CrPC maintenance post iddat, ensuring continued financial support.
  • Razia v. State of U.P. (2022): Further reiterated by the Allahabad High Court, emphasizing the availability of CrPC remedies beyond iddat completion.
  • Shakila Khatun v. State of U.P (2023): High Court upheld divorced Muslim women’s right to seek CrPC maintenance, irrespective of religious personal laws.

Injustice Caused to Muslim Women

  • Limited maintenance: The 1986 law offers limited maintenance only during the iddat period and extends till remarriage.
  • Burden of personal laws: Unlike divorced women from other communities who can seek maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC without limitations, Muslim women face restrictions imposed by personal laws.
  • Financial crisis: This results in inconsistent and inadequate financial support for divorced Muslim women, undermining their economic security and perpetuating gender inequality.
  • Unequal treatment: The injustice lies in the unequal treatment of Muslim women under the law, depriving them of the same level of protection and support afforded to women from other communities in matters of divorce and maintenance.

Implications and Future Trajectory

  • Judicial Deliberation: Pending verdict poised to shape the landscape of maintenance entitlements, balancing religious autonomy with gender justice.
  • Policy Implications: Clarification sought on legislative intent vis-à-vis CrPC and 1986 Act, crucial for uniform application and equitable access to justice.
  • Societal Impact: The outcome resonates beyond legal corridors, reflecting evolving societal norms and rights consciousness among marginalized communities.

Way Forward

  • Dialogue and Engagement: Foster open dialogue between religious leaders, legal experts, policymakers, and the Muslim community to understand concerns and perspectives.
  • Legal Reforms: Consider amending existing laws or introducing new legislation to balance religious autonomy with gender justice, especially in provisions related to maintenance for divorced Muslim women.
  • Sensitivity Training: Provide training to legal professionals on handling cases involving Muslim women with cultural competence and understanding of Islamic law while upholding equality principles.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution: Encourage the use of mediation and arbitration within Islamic law to resolve family disputes, including matters of maintenance, fairly and amicably.
  • Consultation and Collaboration: Include Muslim women in decision-making processes and policy formulation through consultation, ensuring their voices are heard and perspectives considered.
  • Respect for Diversity: Acknowledge diversity within the Muslim community, avoiding generalizations, and upholding principles of pluralism and tolerance in addressing women’s rights issues.


  • The apex court’s forthcoming ruling holds the potential to bridge legal schisms and affirm the rights of marginalized segments, reinforcing the constitutional ethos of equality and justice for all.

Try this Question from CS Mains:

Q.1) Do you think marriage as a sacrament is losing its value in Modern India? (2023)

Q.2) What are the challenges to our cultural practices in the name of secularism? (2019)

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