‘Rights upheld’: Activists hail verdict

In its ruling, the apex court said maintenance is not charity but the right of married women and it is applicable to all married women irrespective of their religion.
‘Rights upheld’: Activists hail verdict

NEW DELHI: Hailing the Supreme Court ruling that divorced Muslim women are entitled to maintenance under the Section 125 of the CrPC, several rights activists on Wednesday said that the verdict will have positive implications on the rights of Muslim women in the country.

In its ruling, the apex court said maintenance is not charity but the right of married women and it is applicable to all married women irrespective of their religion.

Speaking to this newspaper, Zakia Soman, women’s right activist and co-founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan , said that such progressive judgments will pave the way forward for equal legal rights of Muslim women within marriage and family. “With such judgments, we should celebrate because it is like a march forward,” Soman said.

“In the ruling, Justice Nagarathna has unequivocally said that all married women are entitled to maintenance and that includes Muslim women. The clear messaging is that no woman can be barred on account of religion,” she said.

Soman, one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court behind the abolition of triple talaq, said that a grave injustice and an anomaly have been corrected by the SC with this judgment.

“In the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986, a Muslim woman’s right to maintenance under 125 CrPC was snatched away. It was a restrictive Act. It has been corrected today,” she said.

Under Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986, in response to the Shah Bano judgment of 1985, a Muslim woman can seek maintenance only during iddat -- 90 days after the divorce. “90 days is a very short period. A woman may not be, you know, she cannot be standing up on her feet within 90 days of divorce,” said Soman.

“Now if a woman decides to file a case under the secular Section 125 CrPC, there is no stopping her after this judgment,” she added.

The court said, “This right transcends religious boundaries, reinforcing the principle of gender equality and financial security for all married women.”

“Some husbands are not conscious of the fact that the wife, who is a homemaker, is dependent on them emotionally and in other ways. Time has come for Indian men to recognise the indispensable role and sacrifices made by housewives for the family,” it added.

In his appeal, the petitioner Abdul Samad argued that the 1986 Act was a special law and a divorced Muslim woman’s application for maintenance under Section 125 was not maintainable.

Hasina Khan, founder of Bebaak Collective, told this paper that the verdict ensured that all divorced Muslim women are entitled to a decent maintenance. “It is a historic ruling because the court said that maintenance is not a matter of charity but a fundamental right of married women. This will be a setback to the conservative section which doesn’t want women to get alimony under a secular law,” she said.

“Women will also get a dignified space to negotiate,” said Khan, adding that the ruling will ensure that divorced Muslim women get substantial alimony.

Rekha Sharma, chairperson of the National Commission for Women, has welcomed the judgment. “NCW Chairperson, Ms. Rekha Sharma, wholeheartedly welcomes the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling affirming the right of Muslim women to seek maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC. This decision is a significant step towards gender equality and justice for all women,” the panel said in a post on X.

‘Paving the way for equal legal rights’

Zakia Soman, women’s right activist and co-founder of Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan , said that such progressive judgments will pave the way forward for equal legal rights of Muslim women within marriage and family. “With such judgments, we should celebrate because it is like a march forward,” Soman said. Soman said that a grave injustice and an anomaly have been corrected by the SC with this judgment.

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