Estranged Muslim woman can now claim maintenance

MUMBAI: Over 10 years after she was forced to leave her matrimonial house with her two children, a Muslim woman now has a reason to smile. The Bombay high court recently held that she was entitled to maintenance from her husband under section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

Abdul Majid (44), a labourer from Wardha, had challenged the judgments and orders passed by the lower courts awarding maintenance to his wife, Saidabano (34) and their two children—Abdul Kadir (15) and Shirinbano (13). His lawyer argued that as he was divorced, his wife was not entitled to claim maintenance under the CrPC, which deals with enforcing a claim for maintenance against a husband by a wife who is neglected. He said there was no proof of neglect against the husband or his refusal to maintain his wife. The husband’s lawyer argued and the matter be reheard.

Saidabano’s lawyer argued that in a judgment 2010, the Supreme Court in Shabana Bano versus Imran Khan case held that even a divorced wife is entitled to maintenance under section 125 of the CrPC.

The wife has been away for 10 years with no maintenance and support from her husband and her lawyer said it would be unjust to send the case back to the lower court for a fresh hearing after all this time. The HC read the deposition of the wife before the lower court. In it she said she was asked to shell out Rs 25,000 to help her husband set up a shop and that she was harassed and threatened by her father-in-law. She finally left the house.

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Justice A B Chaudhari of the HC’s Nagpur bench, observed that the lower courts had come to a finding that the talaknama did not exist and hence there was no divorce before the maintenance application was filed. While the summary findings on the existence of a divorce were open for adjudication by a higher court, the HC noted that the law as laid down by the SC recently ensured that Saidabano’s plea was “surely maintainable’’.

The HC judge looked at the deposition made years ago by the woman and her cross examination. He found that her evidence “has not been shattered in the cross examination’’. He said there is “no reason to disbelieve the evidence about ill-treatment, refusal and neglect’’ and dismissed the husband’s petition.

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