Islam, Women and Feminism
Rights of Muslim women: Indian Supreme Court intervenes again
In a little noticed case, the Supreme Court has again intervened in support of maintenance for a divorced Muslim woman. Instead of Shahbano, this time it is Shabano Bano who approached the courts for maintenance, appealing against a lower courts decision that a divorced Muslim woman was entitled to maintenance only during the iddat period to ensure she is not pregnant. The apex court has ruled that a divorced Muslim woman is entitled to receive maintenance from her husband as long as she does not remarry, in what is yet another path breaking decision.
Shabano Bano was married to an Imran Khan in Gwalior on November 26, 2001. She filed a petition under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code in the family court, Gwalior. Imran challenged this, saying that under the provisions of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986 she was not entitled to any maintenance after the expiry of iddat. It might be recalled that Shahbano had won a right to maintenance from the Supreme Court, but following howls of protests from the Muslim conservatives, the then Rajiv Gandhi government intervened to reverse the decision through a legislation that sought to put the Muslim woman out of the purview of Section 125 of the CrPC.
The Gwalior family court ruled in favour of Imran Khan, after which Shabano Bano approached the high court that dismissed her petition. Almost following the footsteps of Shahbano, this courageous woman moved the Supreme Court. A two-judge bench of Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice Deepak Verma ruled: “It is held that if a Muslim woman has been divorced, she would be entitled to claim maintenance from her husband even after the expiry of iddat, as long as she does not remarry under Section 125 of the CrPC.” The apex court set aside the order passed by the Gwalior Bench of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh and remanded the matter to the family court of Gwalior to decide it on merit. The judges further said, “it would make it crystal clear that even a divorced Muslim woman would be entitled to claim maintenance from her ex-husband as long as she does not remarry. This being a beneficial piece of legislation, the benefit must accrue to divorced Muslim women too.”