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CITATION- AIR 1985 SCR (3) 844


BENCH OF JUDGES: Y.V Chandrachud, D.A Desai, O.Chinnappa Reddy, E.S Venkataramiah, Rangnath Misra

Brief facts of this case:-

  • Shah Bano was offered Rs.200 as monthly maintenance by her ex-husband after the same had stopped in April 1978 after she was forced out of her house in 1975.
  • In 1978 she lodged Rs 500 a month for a maintenance petition in the local court.
  • The husband then on 6 November 1978 gave her irrevocable talaq and used it as a shield not to pay for maintenance.
  • Furthermore, he argued that for about two years the amount of Rs 200 per month had been paid and an additional amount of Rs 3000 had been deposited in court for the iddat period.
  • In August 1979 the magistrate ordered the husband to pay a monthly amount of Rs 25 as maintenance.
  • A modification order lodged at high court raised the maintenance to Rs 179.20 a month. The same was challenged at the Supreme Court by the husband as a special petition for leave to the decision of the high court.

Wearable Devices

In this landmark case, the Supreme Court took a long time and struggled with the question of maintenance to be provided by her husband after the divorce to an aggrieved Muslim divorced woman.

The Apex Court here referred to the Holy Quran as the authoritative textbook with great emphasis on the friction between the Code of Criminal Procedure Code Section 125 and Muslim Personal Law. Although the husband’s request not to offer assistance was rejected, the same one faced considerable opposition and was claimed to be against Islamic law. The then government declared the law applicable only during iddat time. The case was subsequently upheld in further rulings by the apex court.

Issues of this case:-

  • Whether section 125 of Crpc is concerned with Muslims or not?
  • Whether the mere payment of Mehr by the divorced husband is sufficient to remove him from any duty to pay for the maintenance of the wife thereafter.
  • Whether the Uniform Civil code applies to all religion or not?

Analysis of Judgment:-

Prior to this case coming before the court, there were two Supreme Court judgments stating that the court could grant maintenance. However, it was felt that these were not robust enough. Thus, a five bench Constitution bench was formed to decide on the matter.

The Supreme Court in this matter delivered a unanimous verdict. The court focused on religious neutrality of section 125 of CrPc, stating that the religion of the spouse was irrelevant in deciding whether maintenance can be allowed under 125 or not. The purpose of this section was to protect dependents from vagrancy and destitution, thus, there was no reason to exclude Muslim women.

The court further observed that Muslim law did not deal with the matter dealt with u/s 125. The court held that Mahr was not an amount paid to a Muslim woman ‘on divorce’. The court observed that Mahr meant a consideration of marriage. The court thus held that supporting maintenance would not go against the tenants of Islam.

The court confirmed the maintenance awarded by Madhya Pradesh High Court (Rs. 179.20 every month ) and also awarded to Shah Bano the legal costs of the appeal, which is fixed at 10,000 rupees.

The Ruling of the Apex Court:-

The husband’s payment of Mehr on divorce isn’t enough to absolve him of the wife’s obligation to pay maintenance.

  • The husband’s responsibility for paying the wife’s maintenance continues beyond the iddat duration if the wife has inadequate means to maintain or support herself.
  • Article 125 of the Code extends to all people, irrespective of their religion.
  • Section 125, if there is some dispute between the two, overrides the personal rule.

There is no dispute between the provisions of Section 125 and those of the Muslim Personal Law on the matter of the duty of the Muslim husband to provide care for a divorced woman who is unable to sustain herself.

Conclusion by Author:-

  • The Shah Bano judgment attracted a lot of opposition on the grounds that it was against the provisions of Islamic law with authoritative bodies against the decision.
  • This culminated in the passage of the 1986 Muslim Women ( Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, which provided for Muslim women to receive a significant one-time payment from their husbands during the iddat period, instead of a fixed monthly payment of as much as 500 – an upper limit that has since been withdrawn.
  • The case had again spurred the debate in India on the Uniform Civil Code, but the pressure exerted by orthodox Muslims triggered the cave-in of women’s organizations and secularists.
  • The validity of the Muslim Women Act was challenged in Danial Latifi & Anr v. Union Of India[5] which in a nutshell provided that the husband provides maintenance till the wife remarries and not just limits it to the iddat.


[1] 1985 AIR 945, 1985 SCR (3) 844

[2] MANU/SC/0402/1978

[3] MANU/SC/0508/1980

[4] 1970CriLJ522

[5] ((2001) 7 SCC 740 : 2001 CriLJ 4660)


  1. Sir ji aap ne apni discussion me likha hai “payment of mehar to the husband “, while discussing issues, whereas it should be “ payment of mehar by the husband to the wife is not sufficient “. I think it is typographical mistake.

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