Trace Your Case


Mohd. Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano Begum AIR 1985 SC 945


  • Whether a “wife” in the CrPC included a divorced Muslim woman?
  • Whether Section 125 of the CrPC overrides Muslim personal law?
  • Whether a conflict exists between the payment of maintenance upon a divorce under Section 125 of the CrPC and Muslim personal law?
  • Whether the sum payable on the divorce of a Muslim marriage is limited to the period of iddah?


  • Clause (b) of Section 125 contains no words of limitation to exclude Muslim women from its scope, it is secular in character.
  • A divorced Muslim woman is a wife under Section 125 of the CrPC so long as she has not remarried. The statutory rights granted to her are unaffected by personal law.
  • Muslim personal law (limiting the husband’s liability to the period of iddah) does not contemplate a case where the wife is unable to maintain herself. The true provision is that a husband’s liability only ceases at the end of the period of iddah so long as the wife is able to maintain herself.


  • Shah Bano Begum was married to Mohd. Ahmed Khan, a lawyer in 1932.
  • They lived together for 43 years and had five children.
  • Khan disowned Shah Bano in 1975 and threw her out of the marital home.
  • In April 1978, Khan stopped giving Shah Bano the 200 rupees per month that he had allegedly promised her in 1975.
  • Shah Bano then filed suit in a local court in Indore demanding maintenance under Section 125 of the CrPC claiming that she did not have the means to maintain herself and her children.
  • In November of 1978, Khan gave Shah Bano an irrevocable talaq and claimed no obligation to pay maintenance as his obligation to Shah Bano had ceased under Muslim personal law.
  • Following the decision in the Indore local court, the High Court of Madhya Pradesh adjudged on the case and ultimately, Khan appealed to the Supreme Court.


  • The appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court.
  • It was held that Section 125 of the CrPC is secular in character and thus applies to all religions without any form of discrimination.
  • The court held that the provisions of the CrPC overrule any personal law prevalent in India.
  • It was ruled that should a divorced wife be unable to maintain herself, the husband’s responsibility to pay maintenance extends beyond the iddah period.
  • Further Impact of the Case:
  • The Shah Bano verdict is widely known to have led to The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act of 1986 that, in effect, nullified the judgement allowing maintenance to be payable only during the period of iddah (or 90 days till after the divorce).