Whether a divorced Muslim woman, is a ‘wife’ and competent to ask maintenance under Section 125 of Cr.P.C?

The right conferred by Section 125 can be exercised irrespective. of the personal law of the parties, is fortified, especially in regard to Muslims, by the provision contained in the Explanation to the second proviso to Section 125(3) of the Code. That proviso says that if the husband offers to maintain his wife on condition that she should live with him, and she refuses to live with him, the’ Magistrate may consider any grounds of refusal stated by her, and may make an order of maintenance, notwithstanding the offer of the husband, if he is satisfied that there is a just ground for passing such an order. According to the Explanation to the proviso:

“If a husband has contracted marriage with another woman or keeps a mistress, it shall be considered to be just ground for his wife’s refusal to live with him.”

11. The whole of this discussion as to whether the right conferred by Section 125 prevails over the personal law of the parties, has proceeded on the assumption that there is a conflict between the provisions of that section and those of the. Muslim Personal Law. The argument that by reason of Section 2 of the Shariat Act, XXVI of 1937, the rule of decision in matters relating, inter alia, to maintenance “shall be the Muslim Personal Law” also proceeds upon a similar assumption. We embarked upon the decision of the question of priority between the Code and the Muslim Personal Law on the assumption that there was a conflict between the two because, in so far as it lies in our, power, we wanted to set at rest, once for all, the question whether Section 125 would prevail over the personal law of the parties, in cases where they are in conflict.

Since the Muslim Personal Law, which limits the husband’s liability to provide for the maintenance of the divorced, wife to the period of iddat, does not contemplate or countenance the situation envisaged by Section 125, it would be wrong to hold that the Muslim husband, according to his personal law, is not under an obligation to provide maintenance, beyond, the period of iddat, to his divorced wife who is unable to maintain herself. The argument of the appellant that, according to the Muslim Personal Law, his liability to provide for the maintenance of his divorced wife is limited to the period of iddat, despite the fact that she is unable to maintain herself, has therefore to be rejected. The true position is that, if the divorced wife is able to maintain herself, the husband’s liability to provide maintenance for her ceases with the -expiration of the period of iddat. If she is unable to maintain herself, she is entitled to take recourse to. Section 125 of the Code. The outcome of this discussion is that there is no conflict between the provisions of Section 125 and those of the Muslim Personal Law on the question of the Muslim husband’s obligation to provide maintenance for a divorced wife who is unable to maintain herself. [ Mohd. Ahmed Khan Versus Shah Bano Begum and others AIR 1985 SC 945 ]