New Delhi: It has been 25 years since the Supreme Court's landmark judgement in the Shah Bano case, which ruled that a Muslim woman was entitled to maintenance after divorce.
The ruling provides hope and a solution for many Muslim women even now.
For Shabana Bano, life took an ugly turn when her husband of four years divorced her for dowry in 2005. Shabana was sent back to her parents home, pregnant and penniless. She filed a petition for maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPc, only to have her plea rejected.
"It has been long struggle. But now I am happy and have got relief," says Shabana.
The Supreme Court gave Shabana a new lease of life in December 2009 when it upheld her right to maintenance. The apex court's verdict had a precedent - the landmark judgement of 1985 in the famous Shah Bano case.
"It became landmark because Shah Bano judgement held that a Muslim woman was entitled to maintenance even after divorce and justified it both on the basis constitution and also Muslim Personal Law," says Kirti Singh.
Earlier Muslim women applied for maintenance under Section 125 of CrPc, which awarded monthly maintenance to the divorced woman even beyond the iddat period (the three months after divorce).
After the Shah Bano verdict, the government brought in the Muslim Women's (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act 1986, which tried to restrict the rights of maintenance to the iddat period.
"From 1985 till now the Supreme Court has come up with progress reinterpretations," says former chairman of National Minorities Commission Tahir Mahmood.
Like in the Daniel Latifi case in 2001.
"In the Daniel Latifi case what happened that the court interpreted Section 3 again broadly and held the Muslim women had right to maintenance and fair and just provision and that could be for life," says Singh.
Though that legal position holds till now the worry is it's still open to interpretation, which is why even 25 years after the progressive judgment women like Shabana have to fight for their rights.
"I only want to tell the other women 'don't lose heart'. Just find it in yourself to keep fighting for your rights," adds Shabana.
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