Judgement of the day: Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum and Others (1985 AIR945)


Justice Y. C. Chandrachud (CJ), Justice Rangath Misra, Justice D. A. Desai, Justice O. Chinnappa Reddy, Justice E. S. Venkataramiah (JJ)


Mohd Ahmed Khan (appellant) who was a lawyer by profession, married Shah Bano Begum (respondent) in 1932 and had three sons and two daughters from this marriage. In 1975, when Shah Bano’s age was 62 years, she was disowned by her spouse and was thrown out from her marital home together with her children. In 1978, she filed a case before the magistrate as she was abandoned from the maintenance of Rs. 200 per month, which was guaranteed to be provided by him. And at the same time, she demanded Rs. 500 per month as maintenance. Subsequently, the husband gave her the irrevocable triple talaq on November 6th, 1978, and used it as a defence to not pay maintenance. The magistrate, in August 1979, directed the husband to pay an entirety of Rs 25 per month as maintenance. Shah Bano in July 1988 made a plea to the High Court of M.P, to change the sum of maintenance to Rs. 179 each month, and high court increased the maintenance to the said amount i.e. Rs. 179 per month. The same was challenged by the spouse within the Supreme Court as a special leave petition to the High court’s decision, where it was dismissed.


• Supreme Court said Section 125 of the CrPC applies to all citizens independent of their religion, without any sort of discrimination. The court further stated that Section 125 overrides the personal law if there is any conflict between the two. The apex court made it clear that there’s no strife between the provisions of Section 125 and those of the Muslim Personal Law on the address of the Muslim husband’s obligation to provide maintenance for a divorced wife who is incapable to maintain herself.

• Supreme Court in this case also held that the obligation of the husband to pay maintenance to the wife extends beyond the ‘iddat’ period in the event that the wife does not have sufficient means to maintain herself.

• The payment of Mehar by the husband on divorce is not sufficient to exempt him from the duty to pay maintenance to the wife.

• After a long court procedure, the Supreme Court finally concluded that the husbands’ legal liability will come to an end if a divorced wife is competent to maintain herself. But this situation will be switched in the case when the wife isn’t able in a condition to maintain herself after the Iddat period, she will be entitled to get maintenance or alimony under Section 125 of CrPC.

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