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Minority marriage order

New Delhi, June 8: Married Muslim women who seek maintenance are on a par with all other women, the Supreme Court has said, clarifying one aspect of the Shah Bano controversy.

The bench said an act passed in 1986 to assuage the community, after a court had granted the divorced Shah Bano alimony under secular law, applied only to divorced women.

The court removed another misunderstanding of the Muslim Woman (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 — this time in relation to divorced women. It said the act entitled a woman to maintenance for her whole life — and not just the iddat period (of three lunar months) — if she did not remarry.

The court sent back Iqbal Bano’s maintenance plea to Allahabad High Court for reconsideration. The high court had agreed with an Aligarh sessions court that married Muslim women could not invoke Section 125 of the CrPC — the general law governing maintenance — but only the 1986 act.

The apex court also said that if a woman who filed a petition under Section 125 of the CrPC turned out to be divorced, the plea shouldn’t be dismissed on that ground. It should be treated as having been filed under the 1986 act. Many litigation-savvy Muslim men have been known to divorce their wives as soon as they came to know she had filed for maintenance.

The bench also said the practice of treating a husband’s written statement as proof of talaq must end.

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