Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum And Ors.

Author: Anshi Mishra, 3rd Year, B.A. LL.B (H), School of Law, Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal.
The case comment has been written by the author while pursuing the internship programme with us.

Appellant- Mohd. Ahmed Khan

Respondent– Shah Bano Begum

Bench- Chandrachud, Y.V. ((CJj), Desai, D.A., Reddy, O. Chinnappa (J), Venkataramiah, E.S. (J), Misra Rangnath

Court- Supreme Court Of India

Citation- 1985 SCR (3) 844Decided on- 23.04.1985


The Shah Bano case has been one of the landmark judgments dealing with the controversial maintenance issue. The judgment revolves around the application of Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and recognizing the rights of Muslim women. Through this judgment, the status of Triple Talaq was also debated. It is a story of a woman fighting back with the male dominant society in order to claim her rights which are being denied by society and law. It is a series of struggles done by Shah Bano who faced such humiliation by her husband who has thrown her away from the house and refused to give her the maintenance while she was unable to fulfill her basic needs. She also fought and raised voice against the evil practice of uttering Triple Talaq which is now finally declared as an illegal practice by the Government.

Factual Matrix

 The Appellant in the case was a lawyer by profession and got married to the respondent in the year 1932 and had three sons and two daughters. Later on, The Appellant married his second wife and after living together with two wives for 14 years in the year 1975 the respondent who was then 62 years old was thrown out of her matrimonial house by the appellant and she was disowned by him.

The procedural background of the case starts in the year 1978 April the respondent appeared in the court of learned Judicial Magistrate (First Class) Indore and filed a petition under Section 125 of the CRPC Rs. 500 per month of maintenance In November 1978 he gave divorce to his wife which is irrevocable by uttering Triple Talaq. The appellant defended himself by stating that she ceased to be his wife because of divorce and he is under no obligation to provide maintenance to her. And he has already given Rs. 200 per month for 2 years and has already deposited an amount of Rs. 3000in the court by the way of dower during the iddat period. In August 1979, the learned Magistrate directed the appellant to pay Rs. 25 per month. In July 1980 again a revision application was filed by the respondent in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh. The court enhanced the amount of maintenance to Rs. 179 per month. And then the appeal was filed against the order in the Supreme Court.[1] 

The issues that were raised in this case were related to the application under Section 125 of the CRPC and related to the amount of Mehr given by the husband at the time of divorce.

With reference to Sections 125 and 127 (3) (b) of the Code, the wife had filed a suit for maintenance underSection 125 of CRPC. The husband built his defence on Section 127(3)(b) of CRPC.[2]

Appellant’s Arguments

The arguments put forward by the appellants were that the liability of the husband to maintain his divorced wife is until the iddat period. And they relied upon the statement of law in certain textbooks. In Mulla’s Mohammedan Law (18th Edition, para 279, page 301), [A1] there is a statement to the effect that, “After divorce, the wife is entitled to maintenance during the period of iddat”

Further, the text says, “Where the order is made for the maintenance of a wife under Section 488 of CRPC and the wife is afterwards divorced, the order ceases to operate on the expiration of the period of iddat. The result is that a Mahomedan may defeat an order made. His obligation to maintain his wife will cease in that case on completion of her iddat.”[3]

Respondent’s Argument

The respondent has filed the suit under Section 125 of CRPC in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in order to increase the amount of maintenance to Rs. 179.20/- per month which was granted by the High Court and then special leave was filed by the husband against the order of the Court.


The verdict was conveyed by Chief justice Y.V.Chandrachud. The Hon’ble Court dismissed the appeal made by Mohd. Ahmed Khan and upheld on the matter of applicability of Section 125 of CRPC, that there is no conflict between the provisions of Section 125 and Muslim personal laws. The provision of the section is very clear and precise, and has no relation with the religion professed by the spouse, the main objective of the section is to provide a quick remedy to the class of people who are being neglected.  The liability imposed by Section 125 to maintain close relatives who are indigent is founded upon an individual’s obligation to the society to prevent vagrancy and destitution. That is the moral edict of the law and morality cannot be clubbed with religion. Clause (b) of the Explanation to Section 125(1), which defines ‘wife’ as including a divorced wife, contains no words of limitation to justify the exclusion of Muslim women from its scope. Section 125 is truly secular in character.[4] Further, the Court held in the matter related to the amount of Mehr that husband cannot get rid away from the obligation of maintaining his wife by giving the amount of Mehr as he is under a duty to maintain his wife after the iddat period if the wife is not under the condition to maintain herself. The Judges mention the need for Article 44 of the Constitution of India which talks about the Uniform Civil Code. This aims at replacing all the personal laws with a common set of laws to govern marriage, divorce, adoption,etc. A common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies.[5]

The Hon’ble Court gave the ruling that the respondent is entitled to receive maintenance.


The wave of this verdict got more impetus after this judgment was highly criticized among the Muslims they felt that their personal laws were being encroached upon. In the year 1986,  the Rajiv Gandhi Government enacted a piece of legislation called the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 which diluted the Supreme Court Judgment because this act allowed maintenance of divorced women for the iddat period which is 90 days and this was in absolute contrast with the provisions of Section 125. This act received huge criticism from several sections of the society. Later on in the case of Daniel Latifi v.s Union of India,[6] the Supreme Court liberally interpreted the provision of this act and stated that amount of maintenance should be “reasonable and fair” and should support her for a lifetime.[7].

This case also made people realize the fact that because of some personal laws the basic human rights of people were being questioned. As the definition of justice for Shah Bano was only to get the economical sustainability from her husband that she asked for which lead to this long struggle and many other Muslim women who were deprived of their basic rights joint this struggle. Muslim women is a struggling minority within the minority because a lot of them are not educated enough to earn for their sustainability this makes them entirely dependent on their husband. Through this landmark Judgment, the Ffaith in Jjudiciary was established to prioritize the basic human rights over the personal laws.

[1] Mohd. Ahmed Khan vs. Shah Bano Begum and Ors. 1985 SCR (3) 844

[2] Mayank, Supreme Court Case Analysis: Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum & Ors. By: Mayank, LATESTLAWS.COM, (May 13, 2020, 1:18AM)

[3] Supra note 1.

[4] Supra note 1.

[5] Supra note1.

[6] (2001) 7 SCC 740.

[7] Utkarsh Anand, From Shah Bano to Salma, JOURNALISM OF COURAGE AND ARCHIVE (May 13, 2020, 12:15 AM)

Editorial Credits: Ravi Sharma
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