MOHAMMED AHMED KHAN vs. SHAH BANO BEGUM
By Jyoti Singh
CITATION- AIR 1985 SCR (3) 844
BENCH OF JUDGES: Y.V Chandrachud, D.A Desai, O.Chinnappa Reddy, E.S Venkataramiah, Rangnath Misra
FACTS OF THE CASE, WITH BRIEF ARGUMENTS-
In 1932, Shah Bano was married to Mohd. Ahmad Khan, who was a renowned lawyer of Indore. They gave birth to 3 Sons and 2 daughters totaling to 5 children. 14 years past their marriage, Mohd. Ahmad married another woman younger than him. In 1975, Shah Bano, aged 62 years was disowned by her husband and thrown out of her matrimonial home along with her children. In April 1978 she filed a petition for maintenance from her husband who she claimed Rs. 60,000 annually, under section 125 of the code of criminal procedure, 1973 before the Judicial Magistrate of Indore. She was granted a meager amount of Rs. 25 per month. In Nov 1978 Mohd Ahmad divorced from his wife Shah Bano by uttering "Triple Talaq".
Mohd. Ahmad's primary defense was that since he uttered the irrevocable Triple Talaq, Shah Bano was no longer his legal wife and due to which he was not accountable for her maintenance, after having paid the Mahr amount of Rs.3000. A Muslim man was accountable for his divorced wife only during the iddat period and not beyond that. He also argued that to be associated with his divorced wife would be “haram”.
When Shah appealed before the Madhya Pradesh High Court, the maintenance amount was revised to Rs. 178.20 per month. Mohammad Ahmed Khan petitioned before the Supreme Court to challenge the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s decision.
ISSUES OF THE CASE-
• Whether section 125 of crpc is concerned with Muslims or not?
• Whether the sum of Mahr given by her husband on divorce is enough to get the husband rid and whether he is liable for her maintenance?
• Whether the Uniform Civil code applies to all religion or not?
JUDGMENT OF THE SUPREME COURT-
Prior to this case coming before the court, there were two Supreme Court judgments stating that the court could grant maintenance. However, it was felt that these were not robust enough. Thus, a five bench Constitution bench was formed to decide on the matter.
The Supreme Court in this matter delivered a unanimous verdict. The court focused on religious neutrality of section 125 of CrPc, stating that the religion of the spouse was irrelevant in deciding whether maintenance can be allowed under 125 or not. The purpose of this section was to protect dependents from vagrancy and destitution, thus, there was no reason to exclude Muslim women.
The court further observed that Muslim law did not deal with the matter dealt with u/s 125. The court held that Mahr was not an amount paid to a Muslim woman ‘on divorce’. The court observed that Mahr meant a consideration of marriage. The court thus held that supporting maintenance would not go against the tenants of Islam.
The court confirmed the maintenance awarded by Madhya Pradesh High Court (Rs. 179.20 every month ) and also awarded to Shah Bano the legal costs of the appeal, which is fixed at 10,000 rupees.