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Indian Case Summary

Usman Khan Bahamani vs Fathimunnisa Begum And Others on 19 March, 1990 – Case Summary

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In the case of Usman Khan Bahamani vs Fathimunnisa Begum and Others on 19 March 1990, the Andhra High Court was tasked with addressing several substantial questions of law regarding the rights of a divorced Muslim woman to claim maintenance under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’) and Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (hereinafter referred as ‘the Code’).

Facts of the Case

The case was referred to a Full Bench of the Court due to the significant legal questions it raised. The primary issues revolved around the rights of a divorced Muslim woman to claim maintenance from her former husband, even after the enforcement of the Act. The questions posed to the Full Bench were:

  1. Can a divorced Muslim woman claim maintenance under Section 125 of the Code from her former husband even after the passing of the Act of 1986?
  2. Is the maintenance contemplated under Section 3(1)(a) of the Act of 1986 restricted only to the period of ‘Iddat’ or does it also include a fair and reasonable provision for the future within the period of Iddat?
  3. How are Sections 125 to 128 of the Code applicable after the enforcement of the Act of 1986, and what should be the mode of disposal of the cases pending before the Courts under these Sections?

Court’s Observations and Ruling

The Court examined the Act of 1986, the principles of Mohammadan Law, and the provisions of Sections 125 to 128 of the Code. The Court noted that the Act of 1986 was passed in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, which had created a furore among the Muslim community of India. The Act was aimed at specifying the rights of a Muslim divorced woman at the time of divorce and protecting her interests.

The Court observed that under the Act, a divorced Muslim woman is entitled to a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to be made and paid to her within the Iddat period by her former husband. The Court further noted that the liability of the husband to make a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to his divorced wife extends only to the period of Iddat. The liability to pay maintenance to a divorced woman, if she is unable to maintain herself after the period of Iddat, is devolved upon the relatives and if the relatives are not available, on the Wakf Board.

The Court also noted that the Act provides for the husband and wife to be governed by Sections 125 to 128 of the Code, if they exercise their option in the manner provided under Section 5 of the Act. However, in the absence of such an option, the provisions of Sections 125 to 128 of the Code would not apply to the case of a divorced Muslim woman claiming maintenance from her former husband.

In conclusion, the Court held that the Act of 1986 is a self-contained Act enumerating the rights and obligations of the parties and providing remedies for the same. The Act limits the liability of the husband to provide maintenance to the divorced wife to the period of Iddat only. If the divorced woman is unable to maintain herself even after the period of Iddat, then the liability devolves on her relatives who would inherit her property, as stated in Section 4 of the Act.