SC On Homemaker’s Rights: Husbands Must Maintain Joint Accounts; Provide ATM Access To Their Wives

According to Section 125, a man with sufficient means cannot deny maintenance to their wives, children, or parents.
SC On Homemaker’s Rights
SC On Homemaker’s Rights

According to a recent Supreme Court (SC) observation, a divorced woman can seek alimony from her husband under Section 125 of the code of criminal procedure - the law related to maintenance for wives. This move comes on the back of a bench of Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice Augustine George Masih dismissing a Muslim man’s petition challenging a direction to pay his wife maintenance post-divorce.

Justice Nagarathna said, “We are hereby dismissing the criminal appeal with the major conclusion that Section 125 would apply to all women and not just married women.” This judgment proves that it is now time for Indian men to recognize and acknowledge the role a woman plays as a homemaker and the sacrifices she makes for her family, according to SC.

This order further strengthens the fact that it was a right for a divorced woman to seek alimony under the code of criminal procedure (CrPC), irrespective of her religion.

Emphasizing the important role a homemaker plays in a family, the court said that husbands needed to provide financial support to their wives.

The court said: "We highlight the necessity for husbands to provide financial support to their wives... practical measures such as maintaining joint bank accounts and sharing ATM access to ensure economic stability for women within the household.”

The SC ruling on the financial rights of a divorced Muslim woman underlined that maintenance was not just charity, but a fundamental right of a married woman. "This right transcends religious boundaries, reinforcing the principle of gender equality and financial security for all married women," it said. Section 125 broadly states that a person with sufficient means cannot deny maintenance to his wife, children, or parents.

The judgment came after a petition was filed by Mohd Abdul Samad, who was asked by a family court to pay a monthly allowance of Rs 20,000 to his divorced wife. Samad had challenged the direction in Telangana High Court and it modified the amount to Rs 10,000. He then moved the SC. While his counsel argued that divorced Muslim women can seek recourse to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 Act, it stressed that it provides much more than what Section 125 CrPC does. He also argued that a special law- which he mentioned as an Act- shall prevail over a general law.

According to Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agarwal, personal law does not take away a woman’s entitlement to relief under the gender-neutral CrPC.

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