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Iddat: A Curse or A Boon for Married Women in India

In Islamic Law, the principle of Iddat or Iddah is very important. Section 2 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 (hereinafter referred to as The Act) talks about the period of 'Iddat'. At the point when a marriage is dissolved by death or by separation, the woman is disallowed from marrying again, inside a predetermined time.

This predetermined time is known as Iddah. It is a time of moderation forced on the woman. The motivation behind iddah is to determine whether the woman is pregnant and avoid any kind of confusion regarding paternity. Failure to observe the period of 'iddah' might lead to cancellation of second marriage.

The Act defines iddah period' in case of divorce:

  1. Three menstrual courses after the date of divorce, in the event that she is dependent upon period.
  2. Three lunar months after the separation, on the off chance that she is not dependent upon menstrual cycle.
  3. On the off chance that she is expecting at the time of her separation, the period between the separation and the birth of her child or the end of her pregnancy, whichever is prior.[i]

Iddah period in case of death of the husband:

  1. In the event that a marriage is broken down by the demise of the husband, the bereaved wife needs to notice iddah for a time of four months and ten days. For this situation, it doesn't make any difference if culmination occurred.
  2. Assuming the women in this period becomes pregnant, her iddah period reaches out till the birth of her child.[ii]

Iddah period in case of death of husband while observing the iddah period of divorce:

For the situation where a woman is separated by her husband and is noticing divorce, an iddah of a quarter of a year will be noticed. In the event that during this time her husband dies, she needs to notice a new iddah of four months and ten days from the day of the passing of the spouse.[iii]

Maintenance during and after Iddat:

During the Iddah time, the divorced wife is entitled to fair and equitable maintenance from her husband. In the case of, Mohammed Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano[iv], the apex court bench of 5 judges headed by Justice Chandrachud held that if the wife is unable to support herself, a husband is obligated to pay maintenance to her even after iddah under section 125 of the Cr.PC, and if she is able to support herself, maintenance will cease after iddat.

The Supreme Court also interpreted the Quran, ruling that there is no dispute between Muslim personal law and section 125 of the CrPC since a husband is required to support his divorced wife even under Muslim law.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court ruled in Usman Khan Bahamani v. Fathimunnisa Begum[v] that a Muslim woman is only entitled to maintenance during the time of iddah. Furthermore, the court read Section 3(1) of the Muslim Women Act's [vi]term "within" very broadly. A husband is only responsible for equal and appropriate upkeep during the iddah era and only for the iddah period, according to the court.

The Hon'ble Apex Court has dismissed the Andhra Pradesh High Court's narrow interpretation of section 3, saying that because the Muslim Women Act's motive or goal is to support and favour women, its interpretation should be done accordingly unless anything contrary is specified, which is not the case in this matter.[vii]

The Supreme Court interpreted section 4 of the Muslim Women Act [viii], which requires relatives to support divorced women during the iddah time, in Iqbal Bano v. the State of Uttar Pradesh [ix]. The court ruled that equitable and equal provision preservation can only be sought from the ex-husband, not from family. A Muslim divorced woman can demand compensation under section 125 of the Cr PC even after the iddah term has expired, according to Shabana Bano v Imran Khan.[x]

According to Muslim personal law, a husband is only allowed to support his wife during the iddah time, after which the woman is left to her own devices. The Supreme Court defied this convention in the Shah Bano case, allowing for maintenance after the iddah time.

Rule of Iddat:

  1. During Iddat, it is Haraam for a woman to engage in things such as applying lipstick or beautifying herself in some other way.
  2. She is not permitted to wear silk or other ostentatious attire. There is no specific colour to wear at this period, such as black or white, and any basic and plain clothes will suffice.
  3. She is not permitted to leave the house before the end of the iddat time unless there is an emergency, such as a need for vital necessities or a personal condition that prevents a physician from making a house call.
Conclusion
We live in an era where technology is advancing at an unbelievable rate. As previously said, the Iddat period is used to determine paternity. However, technology will now determine whether or not a woman is pregnant in a period of few days.

Besides, working women cannot stay at home for such an extended period of time. Iddah, in my humble opinion, is no longer relevant in today's world. In a recent case, Delhi Court held that any marriage conducted by a Muslim woman during the iddat period is considered an irregular marriage, rather than a void (batil) marriage.[xi]

End-Notes:
  1. Section 2(b) of The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986
  2. The Qur'an, Al-Baqarah 2: 234 235.
  3. The Qur'an, Al-Talaaq 4
  4. Mohammed Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum, AIR 1985 SC 945
  5. Usman Khan Bahamani v. Fathimunnisa Begum, AIR 1990 AP 225.
  6. The Muslim Women Act, sec 3 cl. a; a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to be made and paid to her within the idda tperiod by her former husband.
  7. Danial Latifi v. Union of India, 2001 SC SCC 740.
  8. The Muslim Women Act, s4.
  9. Iqbal Bano v. the State of Uttar Pradesh, 2007 6 SCC 785.
  10. Shabana Bano v Imran Khan,
  11. https://indianexpress.com/article/india/triple-talaq-marriage-of-muslim-woman-during-iddat-not-void-court-4656862/

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