The Supreme Court has ruled that the right to maintenance of a wife was absolute, which allowed no exceptions. The court further ruled that Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which contains this rule, would apply to divorced Muslim women also. “If the husband was healthy, able-bodied and could support himself, he was under a legal obligation to support his wife, as her right to maintenance, unless disqualified, was an absolute right," said the apex court.
The order also clarified that the maintenance under this section cannot be restricted in any way for divorced Muslim women, who are entitled to the allowance until they remarry. "The maintenance to be awarded under Section 125 CrPC cannot be restricted for the iddat period only," the court said, citing an earlier ruling by a Constitution bench. The ruling would help divorced Muslim women whose maintenance rights were curtailed by a parliamentary law by the Rajiv Gandhi government after the top court's Shah Bano ruling.
The case pertains to Shamima Farooqui of Lucknow, who was ill-treated by her husband Shahid Khan, who later remarried. Her application filed in 1998 was taken up in 2012. Khan was a Nayak in the Army who earned Re. 17,654 per month, including perks. The family court initially had initially granted her Rs.2,000 per month but revised it to Rs.4,000 per month after noting that she had no other means of supporting herself.
However, the high court reduced it to Rs.2, 000 per month, taking note of the husband’s retirement from the Army in 2012. This drew the top court's ire, which felt that in today's world, it was extremely difficult to believe that a woman could manage within Rs.2, 000 per month.