Rana Nahid vs. Sahidul Haq Chisti Case Summary SC 2020

Rana Nahid vs. Sahidul Haq Chisti Case Summary SC 2020

Rana Nahid vs. Sahidul Haq Chisti case dealt with the maintenance of a divorced Muslim wife who filed a petition under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Before 1985, Section 125 of the CrPC applied to all women, regardless of their religion. However, in 1986, the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act was passed, overturning the Shah Bano case verdict and considerably restricting the rights of divorced Muslim women. Under this Act, a divorced Muslim woman is only eligible for maintenance during the ‘Iddat’ period, which lasts for 90 days after the divorce.

EQUIVALENT CITATIONS: 2020 SCC Online SC 522

DATE OF JUDGEMENT: 18th June 2020

COURT: The Supreme Court of India

BENCH: Justice R. Banumathi, Justice Indira Banerjee

FACTS OF RANA NAHID CASE 2020:

  • The appellant, Rana Nahid, and the respondent, Sahidul Haq Chisti had got married as per Muslim marriage rituals and their son was born out of wedlock.
  • The appellant claimed she was harassed for dowry, treated cruelly, and ejected from her matrimonial home. She filed a petition against her husband in the family court, under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
  • In her petition, the appellant claimed Rs 6,000/- per month in maintenance for herself and Rs 2,500/- per month in maintenance for her son, from her husband.
  • The family court denied the wife’s maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC on the grounds that she was a divorced Muslim wife.
  • The child, however, was granted maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC, and the respondent was ordered to pay a monthly sum of Rs 2,000/- to the child until he reached the age of majority.
  • The family court treated the petition filed under Section 125 of the CrPC as a petition filed under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.
  • The case of Iqbal Bano vs. State of Uttar Pradesh served as a precedent. Under Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, the Family Court instructed the husband to pay a lump sum of Rs. 3,00,000/- to the wife for her maintenance and future livelihood.
  • The appellant being dissatisfied with the amount of maintenance awarded to her by the Family Court filed a revision petition before the Rajasthan High Court for an increase in the maintenance amount.
  • The respondent Sahidul Haq Chisti also appealed against the Family Court’s order.
  • The respondent paid his wife an amount of Rs. 1,00,000/- while the matter was pending before the High Court. The Rajasthan High Court overturned the Family Court’s decision, ruling that the Family Court lacked the authority and jurisdiction to convert the application under Section 125 of the CrPC into an application under Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act.
  • The appellant was provided the liberty to apply before a Court of competent Magistrate and the amount of maintenance paid to the son was retained.
  • The appellant moved the Supreme Court against the order of the Rajasthan High Court.

LEGAL ISSUES:

  • Whether the family court has jurisdiction over an application for maintenance filed by a divorced Muslim woman under Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, and whether the family court can convert a petition filed under Section 125 of the CrPC into an application filed under Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986?
  • Whether Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure takes precedence over Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986?

CONTENTIONS:

  • The appellant argued that the Family Court has jurisdiction to decide cases under Section 3 of the Muslim Women’s Protection Act, 1986 and that the High Court erred in setting aside the case.
  • The appellant cited the Supreme Court’s decision in the Iqbal Bano case, stating that, the Magistrate changed the petition for maintenance filed under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to an application filed under Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act.
  • The respondent claimed the appellant cannot apply for maintenance unless both parties, i.e., the husband and wife, agree to be governed by Section 125 of the CrPC, as stated in Section 5 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act.

RATIO DECIDENDI:

Justice R. Banumathi:

In the case of Karim Abdul Rehman Shaikh vs. Shehnaz Karim Shaikh (1997), the Bombay High Court considered the Family Court’s authority to hear an application for the maintenance of a divorced Muslim woman. Justice Banumathi ruled that because the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 makes no mention of the Family Court, nor does it mention the possibility of a petition under Sections 3 and 4 of the Act being filed in the Family Court, the Family Court lacked jurisdiction to accept the application.

 She stated she did not find any cause that necessitates the contested order to be changed.

Justice Indira Banerjee:

Since the Family Courts Act,1984 is an unbiased secular statute, all matters, regardless of the parties’ religion, can be addressed by the family court. Despite the fact that Sections 10(1) and 10(2) of the Family Courts Act, which allow the CrPC to apply to suits and proceedings before the Family Court except those that fall under Chapter IX of the CrPC, 1973, also make the CrPC to the proceedings under Chapter IX, giving the Family Court the liberty to use the Code of Civil Procedure.

Justice Banerjee was of the view that only Family Courts have jurisdiction over family and personal matters involving both men and women, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Muslim women’s marriages, divorces, and other family court matters are to be decided by the family court, and Muslim women can claim maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC because there is no reason to single them out and deny them access to family courts, which, in her opinion, was never the intent of the. Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

DECISION:

The division bench comprising Justice R. Banumathi and Justice Indira Banerjee gave a split verdict on the Family Court’s decision to convert the petition filed under Section 125 of CrPC for maintenance to Sections 3 and 4 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

Justice R. Banumathi held that the Family Court cannot change an application for maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC into Section 3 and Section 4 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 since it does not have jurisdiction to do so and therefore dismissed the matter.

On the other hand, the appeal was allowed by Justice Indira Banerjee who was of the opinion that the Family Court had jurisdiction to convert the appellant’s petition for maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC into a petition under Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.

CONCLUSION:

Since the two judges shared different opinions on the matter, there were two different verdicts in this case.

Justice R. Banumathi shared a rigid outlook that if a divorced Muslim woman files a petition under Section 3 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, the Family Court could not try the case because it lacked jurisdiction.

But, in a more lenient and expansive view, Justice Indira Banerjee, opined that the Family Court should be open to even a divorced Muslim woman seeking maintenance.

The case is now due to be heard by a larger bench owing to the split verdict. Both members of the two-judge panel justified their decisions by citing many precedents and the applicable law.

This judgment of this case could be a watershed moment in exposing the critical gaps and flaws in the Family Courts Act of 1984, as well as its inconsistency with the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act of 1986, which, if exposed, reveals prejudiced views against the rights to equality of divorced Muslim women.

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Om Ram

Om Ram

Om Ram is currently a 2nd-year LL.B. student at Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. Previously he did Life Sciences from SVC, Delhi University. He shows his life journey by making Legal Vlogs on a YouTube channel named 'Om Ram'. He has interests in Law, Science & Film making. Some of his notable work related to photography and other interests can be seen on his Instagram. He also has a channel named 'Law Planet' where he along with his sister makes videos to make people aware of laws and their rights.
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