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Sajida-vs-Aziz Abdulla Dasurkar And Anr. on 4 April, 1995

Bombay High Court Sajida-vs-Aziz Abdulla Dasurkar And Anr. on 4 April, 1995
Equivalent citations:II (1996) DMC 632
Author: G Majithia
Bench: G Majithia

JUDGMENT

G.R. Majithia, J.

1. The petitioner has challenged the order of Metropolitan Magistrate, 33rd Court, Ballard Pier, Bambay, dated July 30, 1994, allowing her a sum of Rs. 5,000/- as fair and reasonable maintenance for the ‘Iddat’ period and also return of some articles which were given to her at the time of marriage, in this criminal writ petition.

2. The petitioner had challenged the order of the Metropolitan Magistrate in Criminal Appeal No. 516 of 1994 in this Court. The appeal came up for hearing before a learned Single Judge on October 5, 1994 and the learned Single Judge granted relief to the appellant to convert the criminal appeal into writ petition.

3. The factual matrix is as under :

The petitioner was married to Aziz Abdulla Dasurkar – respondent No.l- (hereinafter “the respondent”) on May 19, 1984. She was divorced on October 14, 1985. The respondent remarried on December 24, 1985 and out of this wedlock he has progeny.

The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 (hereinaf- ter “the Act”) came into force with effect from May 19, 1986.

On a complaint filed by the petitioner, offences punishable under Sections 498A, 323 read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code were registered against the respondent and his mother. They were tried by the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Thane. The learned Chief Judicial Magistrate, by his judgment and order dated May 4, 1993, acquitted them.

On July 17, 1989, the petitioner filed an application before the Metropolitan Magistrate, 33rd Court, Ballard Pier, Bombay, under Section 3 of the Act claiming the following reliefs :

“10. Under the circumstances I pray that:

Under the provision of Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 your Worship may please to :

(a) Issue summons to the respondent. The summons be served through Distt. Court, Thane.

(b) Respondent may be ordered to pay sum of Rs. 5 lakhs as reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to me.

(c) That the respondent may be ordered to pay sum of Rs. 3,000/- being the Iddat momey being the provision for the Iddat period of 3 months.

(d) That the respondent may be ordered to provide to me a suitable residential accommodation in Bombay for my stay or in lieu thereof the respondent may be ordered to pay a sum of Rs. 5 lakhs to enable me to acquire the suitable accommodation in Bombay.

(e) That the respondent may be ordered to return to me all the properties given to me and the respondent at the time of the marriage and which are lying with the respondent as per the list of articles mentioned in Exhibit ‘A’ i.e. respondent may be ordered to pay a cost of his application/petition.”

During the pendency of the application under Section 3 of the Act, the learned Metropolitan Magistrate issued interim order dated July 11, 1994 for return of some articles. The respondent brought the articles in the Court and out of those articles, all the articles except those mentioned at Serial Nos. 5, 6, 9, 21, 31 and 41, were returned. Before the decision of the application, the petitioner presented another application in which she gave the details of the articles allegedly in the possession of the respondent. The learned Metropolitan Magistrate observed in his order that if an appropriate application for return of the articles given at the time of the marriage is moved by the petitioner, the same will be disposed of in accordance with law.

3. Learned Counsel for the respondent very fairly states at the Bar that if the application referred to in the order under challenge is presented by the petitioner, the same will be disposed of by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate and whatever articles are ordered to be returned by the Court will be returned accordingly.

4. The only question which survives for consideration is whether the petitioner is entitled to maintenance from her former husband even after ‘Iddat’ period ? Learned Counsel for the petitioner submits that the former husband of the petitioner is under a legal obligation to provide maintenance for his divorced wife. She submits that Section 3 of the Act speaks of ‘a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to be made and paid’ to a divorced woman by her former husband and that this reasonable and fair provision and maintenance’ will not enure only within the ‘Iddat’ period. Section 3 of the Act reads thus :

“3. Mahr or other properties of Muslim woman to be given to her at the time of divorce-(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, a divorced woman shall be entitled to :

(a) a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to be made and paid to her within the Iddat period by her former husband;

(b) where she herself maintains the children born to her before or after her divorce, a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to be made and paid by her former husband for period of two years from the respective dates of brith of such children;

(c) an amount equal to the sum of Mahr or dower agreed to be paid to her at the time of her marriage or at any time thereafter according to Muslim Law; and

(d) all the properties given to her before or at the time of marriage or after her marriage by her relatives or friends or the husband or any relatives of the husband or his friends.

(2) Where a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance or the amount of Mahr or dower due has not been made or paid or the properties referred to in Clause (d) of Sub-section (1) have not been delivered to a divorced woman on her divorce, she or anyone duly authorised by her may, on her behalf, make an application to a Magistrate for an order for payment of such provision and maintenance, Mahr or dower or the delivery of properties, as the case may be.

(3) Where an application has been made under Sub-section (2) by a divorced woman, the Magistrate may, if he is satisfied that –

(a) her husband having sufficient means, has failed or neglected to make or pay her within the Iddat period a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance for her and the children; or

(b) the amount equal to the sum of Mahr or dower has not been paid or that the properties referred to in Clause (d) of Sub-section (1) have not been delivered to her,

make an order, within one month of the date of the filing of the application, directing her former husband to pay such reasonable and fair provision and maintenance to the divorced woman as he may determine as fit and proper having regard to the needs of the divorced woman, the standard of life enjoyed by her during her marriage and the means of her former husband or, as the case may be, for the payment of such Mahr or dower or the delivery of such properties referred to in Cluase (d) of Sub-section (1) to the divorced woman :

Provided that if the Magistrate finds it impracticable to dispose of the application within the said period, he may, for reasons to be recorded by him, dispose of the application after the said period.

(4) If any person against whom an order has been made under Sub-section (3) fails without sufficient cause to comply with the order, the Magistrate may issue a warrant for levying the amount of maintenance or Mahr or dower due in the manner provided for levying fines under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), and may sentence such person, for the whole or part of any amount remaining unpaid after the execution of the warrant, to imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or until payment if sooner made, subject to such person being heard in defence and the said sentence being imposed according to the provisions of the said Code.”

Clause (a) of Sub-section (1) says that a divorced woman is entitled to a fair and reasonable provision and maintenance within the Iddat period. The term ‘Iddat period’ has been defined in Clause (b) of Section 2 of the Act. Clause (b) of Sub- section (1) says that where a divorced woman herself maintains the children, born to her before or after the divorce, she is entitled to a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance for a period of two years from the date of birth of the child. This is the right of the divorced woman and therefore child’s right to claim maintenance under Section 125, Cr.P.C, 1973 is, however, not affected by this Clause. Clause (c) of Sub-section (1) says that the divorced woman is entitled to receive an amount equal to the sum of Mahr or dower agreed to be paid at the time other marriage or after her marriage. Under Clause (d) of Sub-section (1), a divorced woman is entitled to all the properties given to her before or at the time of marriage or after her marriage by her relatives, friends or husband or relatives of the husband or husband’s friends. Sub-sections (2) and (3) of Section 3 provide for situations where the husband fails to comply with any of the provisions of Clauses (a) to (d) of Sub-section (1). In such situations, the divorced woman can enforce her right by presenting an application, herself or through one authorised by her, to the Magistrate; if the Magistrate is satisfied that her claim is true he is bound to pass orders on her application in accordance with the provisions of Sub-section (3) within one month of the date of filing of the application unless he finds it impracticable to do so within the said period; however, in such cases he has to record reasons for not disposing of the application within one month. Sub-section (4) of Section 3 relates to execution of order passed by Magistrate. By this sub-section, the Magistrate has been empowered to issue warrant for levying the amount of maintenance or Mahr or dower due in the manner provided for levying fines under the Code of Criminal Procedure. Section 4 deals with the divorced woman’s right to claim reasonable and fair maintenance from her relatives. Sub-section (1) of Section 4 envisages that a divorced woman is entitled to claim a reasonable and fair maintenance from such of her relatives as would be entitled to inherit her property on her death according to Muslim Law provided she has not remarried and is not able to maintain herself. Such maintenance shall be payable by such relatives in proportion to the share which they would inherit in her property and at such periods as the Magistrate may specify in his order. But if the divorced woman has children, the liability to maintain lies on them first. In the event of her children being unable to maintain her, she can claim maintenance from her parents or other relatives. Section 4 starts with the non-obstante clause which mentions the foregoing provisions of Section 3 of the Act. So the liability of the relatives to maintain a divorced woman unable to maintain herself arises irrespective of what then she claims and gets from her former husband. The only test is her inability to maintain herself. Also, the liability of the relatives does not seem to depend on the contingency that the divorced woman has property which they can inherit, nor would it seem to absolve any relative on the plea that it is most likely that in view of his or her advanced age or illness he or she would predecease her. Under Sub-section (2) of Section 4, if the divorced woman has no relatives as mentioned in Sub-section (1) or such relatives have not enough means to pay her maintenance, the Magistrate may direct the State Wakf Board functioning in the area in which the woman resides, to pay maintenance to her.

5. A close reading of the provisions of Section 3 of the Act reveals that it deals with the reasonable and fair provision and maintenance for the divorced woman within the Iddat period and the manner in which the claim for Mahr or dower, if any, has to be adjudicated. A statute has to be construed as a whole and the construction given should be harmoneous. Courts have to find out the intention of the Legislature. The intention of the enactment is to overcome the effect of Shah Bano Begam’s case, . The Court is concerned to interpret the law and, if it is valid, apply it as it finds it and not enter upon a discussion as to what the law should be. The provisions of Sections 3 and 4 if harmoneously construed, will reveal that they deal with different situations.

6. Can it be construed that Section 3(1)(a) of the Act postulates that a divorced woman is entitled to reasonable and fair provision and maintenance even after the Iddat period ? Learned Counsel for the petitioner, in support of her submission, placed reliance on A.A. Abdulla v. A.B. Mohmuna Saiyadbhai, , where a learned Single Judge had held that a divorced woman is entitled to maintenance after contemplating her future needs and the maintenance is not limited only upto Iddat period. Learned Counsel also relied upon Ali v. Sufaira, 1988 (3) Crimes, 147, where a learned Single Judge of the Kerala High Court took similar view as the one taken by the learned Single Judge of the Gujarat High Court. Learned Counsel for the respondent placed strong reliance on a Full Bench decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court rendered in Usman Khan Bahamani v. Fathimunnisa Begum, 1990 Cri. LJ. 1364. The Full Bench formulated the following questions for its answer :

“(1) Whether a divorced Muslim Woman can claim maintenance under Section 125 of the Code from her former husband even after passing of the Act of 1986 ?

(2) Whether the maintenance contemplated under Section 3(1)(a) of the Act of 1986 is restricted only for the period of ‘Iddat’ or whether a fair and reasonable provision has to be made for future also within the period of Iddat ?

(3) How far Sections 125 to 128 of the Code can be held to be applicable after coming into force of the Act of 1986 and what should be the mode of disposal of the cases pending before the Courts under these sections ?”

The questions so formulated were answered thus :

“40. In the light of the foregoing discussion, in answer to the first question, we are of the opinion that the divorced woman cannot claim maintenance under Section 125 of the Code after passing of the Act of 1986.

41. In regard to second question, we hold that the fair and reasonable provision and maintenance contemplated under Section 3(1)(a) payable by the husband is restricted only for the period of Iddat and the liability of the husband to provide any provision or maintenance after the period of Iddat does not arise.

42. In regard to the third question, we hold that Sections 125 to 128 of the Code are not applicable after coming into force of the Act of 1986, save in so far as the parties exercise their option under Section 5 of the Act, to be governed by the provisions of Sections 125 to 128 of the Code.

While dilating on the second question formulated for answer, the Full Bench after referring to the various authorities, including the one in Ali’s case (supra), observed thus:

“38. Therefore, to hold that while maintenance may be payable for and during the period of Iddat, a fair and reasonable provision shall be made by her husband forecasting her future needs, would amount to negation of the very object for which Act of 1986 has been promulgated. It would give rise to a new concept of liability on the part of the husband which would be difficult to be translated in concrete terms as it would be almost impossible to visualize the future needs of a divorced Muslim woman which would be depending upon several factors like her remarriage, change in the circumstances or in the life style, etc. We have already discussed this concept earlier in our judgment and have categorically come to the conclusion that the provision or maintenance whatever it may be is liable to be paid only for the period of Iddat and within the period of Iddat only. In any case, the liability of the husband to provide a reasonable and fair provision and maintenance is limited for the period of Iddat only. Therefore, in regard to the second question as to whether the maintenance contemplated under Section 3(1)(a) of the Act of 1986 is restricted only for the period of Iddat or a fair and reasonable provision has to be made for future also within the period of Iddat, we are of the opinion that the liability to pay reasonable and fair provision and maintenance on the part of the former husband is confined only for and during the period of Iddat. Even if it is taken for granted for a reasonable and fair provision is to be made separately from that of maintenance to be given to the wife, such reason- able and fair provision is confined only for the period of Iddat, as defined in Section 2 of the Act. We do not find ourselves in agreement with the decision of the Kerala High Court in Ali case (1988(3) Crimes 147) supra, for the reasons which we have already explained above.

The view taken in Usman Khani Bahamani’s case was followed in Begum Bibi v. Abdul Rajak Khan, 1995 Cri.L.J. 604=II (1995) CCR 341. The learned Single Judge of the Orissa High Court in that case observed that Section 3(1)(a) of the Act envisages making of reasonable and fair provision and payment of maintenance to the divorced wife commensurable with the period of Iddat. The learned Judge did not agree with the view taken in A.A. Abdulla’s case (supra) on the ground that it did not reflect true intention of the Legislature, as even a bare reading of the provisions will show. It will be useful to reproduce the following observations made in that judgment

“……Section 3(1)(a) of the Act envisages making of reasonable and fair provision and payment of maintenance of the divorce wife commensurable with the period of Iddat. A contrary view would defeat the purpose for which the legislation is made. Provisions contained in Section 4 cast liability on the relatives or the Wakf Board, as the case may be, for payment of maintenance to the divorced woman, if she is not remarried or is unable to maintain herself after the Iddat period. It fortifies the view that the liability to pay maintenance does not extend beyond the period of Iddat. In view of what has been stated in Section 5, if the husband and wife exercised their option in the manner provided, they would be governed by pro- visions contained in Sections 125 to 128 of the Code, and Section 7 of the Act. Similar view was taken by this Court in Criminal Revision No. 623 of 1988 disposed of on 13.11.1991, in Munal Baig v. Sakafun Bike, (1992) 4 OCR 362, and in Riswana Begum v. Mlu. Motiulla, (1992) 5 OCR 703. Similar view has also been taken by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Usman Khan Bahamani v. Pathimunnisa Begum, (FB), by the Patna High Court in Md. Yunus v. Bibi Phenkani @ Tasrun Nisa, (1987) 2 Crimes 241 and by the Rajasthan High Court in Abid Ali v. Mst Raisa Begum, (1988) 1 Rajasthan LR 104.”

A learned Single Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court respectfully followed the ratio of the judgmnet in Usman Khan Bahamani’s case (supra) in Shaik Dada Saheb v. Shaik Mastan Bee, 1995 Cri. L.J. 696. The learned Single Judge held that a divorced Muslim wife is not entitled to maintenance beyond Iddat period. Similar view has been taken by the Patna High Court in Md. Yunus v. Bibi Phenkani @ Tasrun Nisa, (1927) 2 Crimes 241, and by the Rajasthan High Court in Abid Ali v. Mst. Raisa Begum, (1988) 1 Rajasthan L.R. 104. I am in respectful agreement with the view taken in Usman Khan Bahamani’s case and the view taken by the Patna, Rajasthan and Orissa High Courts and with great deference to the learned Single Judges of the Gujarat and Kerala High Courts, I am unable to persuade myself to accept the view taken in A.A. Abdulla’s case and Ali’s case referred supra for the reasons given in Begum Bibi’s case with which I concur. Section 3(1 )(a) of the Act envisages making of reasonable and fair provision and payment of maintenance to the divorced wife commensurable with the period of Iddat only and not thereafter.

7. Before I part with this judgment, it is desirable to refer to two Division Bench judgments rendered by this Court in Faridabano v. Shahabuddin, 1993 Mah. L.J. 252=II (1993) CCR 1622 (DB) and in Allahaksh Karim Shaikh v. Noorjahan, 1994 Cri.L.J. 2826. In Faridabano’s case, Saldanha J., speaking for the Bench, observed thus:

“… In our considered view, the limited controversy before us is not as to whether such maintenance can be claimed and awarded by a Court to a divorced Muslim woman after the Iddat period because that question does not arise in the present set of disputes. It would also be improper to decide that issue in a proceeding where it has not been raised merely because arguments were advanced touching that question of law.”

These observations clearly indicate that the Bench did not deal with the question whether a divorced Muslim woman is entitled to maintenance after the Iddat period. In Allabuksh Karim Shaikh’s case, the facts were as under :

A composite application was filed by a divorced Muslim wife and a minor daughter against their husband and father under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure claiming maintenance for each of them. The application of the divorced wife was dismissed but the application was allowed so far as it related to the claim of the minor daughter. The wife did not challenge the order. The father challenged the order of the Metropolitan Magistrate granting maintenance to the daughter on the ground that no such application, even by a daughter, is maintainable in view of the provisions of the Act. This was the only question which was answered by the Bench and the Bench held that such an application was maintainable and that maintenance was rightly granted to the child. This judgment does not deal with the question which has arisen in the instant case and the ratio of this judgment has no bearing to the facts of the instant case.

8. For reasons aforesaid, the writ petition is dismissed. Rule is discharged. However, it is made clear that if a fresh application is made by the petitioner for return of the articles given at the time of marriage against the respondent as alluded to by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate in his order, the same will be disposed of in accordance with law.

Certified copy expedited.

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