The Shah Bano Begum case, also known as the "Muslim Women's Maintenance
Case," is a landmark judgment delivered by the Supreme Court of India in 1985.
The case revolved around the issue of maintenance rights of Muslim women under
the Muslim personal law.
Shah Bano Begum was a 73-year-old Muslim woman who sought maintenance from her
husband, Mohammed Ahmed Khan, after their separation. According to Muslim
personal law, the husband was only obligated to provide maintenance during the
iddat period (three months after divorce), after which the wife had no legal
The Shah Bano Begum case presented the following key issues:
- Maintenance rights under Muslim personal law: The main issue was whether
Muslim women were entitled to claim maintenance beyond the iddat period
under the Muslim personal law or if they could seek maintenance under
secular laws like Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
- Conflict between personal laws and fundamental rights: The case raised
the question of the relationship between personal laws and the fundamental
rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, particularly with regard to
the right to equality and non-discrimination.
Shah Bano's counsel argued that Section 125 of the CrPC was a secular law
enacted to protect the rights of all women, regardless of their religion. They
contended that denying Shah Bano maintenance after the iddat period solely based
on her religion was a violation of her fundamental rights under the Indian
On the other hand, Mohammed Ahmed Khan's counsel argued that Muslim personal
law, based on the Quran and Islamic principles, governed maintenance obligations
for Muslim women. They contended that the application of Section 125 to Muslim
women would be a violation of their religious rights.
The Supreme Court, after considering the arguments, delivered a landmark
judgment in favor of Shah Bano Begum. The Court held that Muslim women were
entitled to claim maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC, irrespective of the
personal laws governing their religion.
The Court observed that Section 125 was a secular provision aimed at preventing
destitution and was not meant to interfere with personal laws. It stated that
personal laws were subject to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the
Constitution and must conform to the principles of justice, equality, and gender
The Court noted that the Quran itself provided for the maintenance of divorced
women, and the provisions of Section 125 were in harmony with Islamic
principles. It emphasized that denying maintenance to Shah Bano Begum after the
iddat period was a violation of her fundamental rights and a failure to uphold
- Supreme Court of India. Shah Bano Begum vs. Mohammed Ahmed Khan, [1985
(1) SCALE 767 = 1985 (3) SCR 844 = 1985 (2) SCC 556 = AIR 1985 SC 945].
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