"The Act (Muslim Woman Act) only applies to divorced women and not to a woman who is not divorced," a bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and D K Jain ruled while upholding the plea of a woman Iqbal Bano.
The apex court passed the ruling while setting aside an Allahabad High Court judgement which held that a married Muslim woman like Iqbal Bano can't claim maintenance under Section 125 CrPC as such a claim is barred under the Muslim Woman Act.
Under Section 125 CrPc, Indian women can claim maintenance allowance from their husbands from whom they are divorced or left neglected.
But the provision was made inapplicable to Muslim women after enactment of the said Muslim Women Act by the then Rajiv Gandhi Goverment in 1986.
The apex court also clarified that Muslim men cannot take the plea that there was no need to pay maintenance after the "mehr" was paid or that the iddat period concluded.
"The conclusions about the Mehr having been paid and the iddat period is over has no relevance," the apex court said while clarifying the position laid down by a Constitution bench in the Danial Latifi case.
Iqbal Bano had filed the appeal after both the Sessions Court and the Allahabd High Court took the view that she cannot file a claim under Section 125 CrPC following the enactment of the Muslim Women Act.
The two courts also took the view that it was enough even if the husband makes a written statement about the alleged divorce.
Iqbal Bano had denied that her husband divorced her as claimed by him. The woman complained that she was deserted for which she claimed maintenance under Section 125 CrPC.
But the husband took the plea that he had uttered the triple talaq and the same was mentioned in the reply statement filed by him in response to the maintenance suit filed by Iqbal Bano.
The argument of the husband was that even if he mentioned the words talaq in his written statement it was sufficient to constitute a divorce under the Muslim Personal Law, a contention upheld by the Sessions Court and affirmed by the High Court.
Disagreeing with the views of the two lower courts, the apex court said that divorce under the Muslim Law would become effective only after it is pronounced verbally at the time of the intended separation.