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    OpinionsSupreme Court order on Alimony for divorced Muslim women is welcome

    Supreme Court order on Alimony for divorced Muslim women is welcome


    By Sushil Kutty

    Telangana resident Mohd. Abdul Samad can't do much. He must be feeling exactly like how Shah Bano Begum felt in 1986. Then, too, the Supreme Court of had skin in the game and had come to the rescue of divorced Muslim women, like it had all those years ago. But then, the SC was beaten by a brute majority.

    Shah Bano Begum was divorced from Mohd. Ahmed Khan in 1978. The gentleman refused to pay her upkeep money. Not even the fact that Shah Bano Begum was the mother of his five children melted the blackguard's heart. Like many Muslim men, he too hid in the folds of the pages of the ‘Book', leaving Bano to fend for herself and her five children.

    Shah Bano Begum was grateful when the Supreme Court ruled in her favour and the erstwhile hubby was told to cough-up maintenance to the divorced wife. Her decision to approach the top court was applauded for its outcome. But the happy people hadn't reckoned for then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He overturned the Supreme Court verdict with the brute majority he enjoyed in Parliament. A new law was enacted and the Muslim men of India were the happiest Muslims on the planet.

    If Shah Bano Begum mourned in private, it is only now that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's dubious role stands exposed in public! Journalist Neerja Chowdhury in her book ‘How Prime Ministers Decide' reveals that Rajiv Gandhi met Shah Bano Begum and convinced her of the folly of pursuing the matter to its logical end. Under pressure, or simply emotionally sapped, Shah Bano Begum fell in line and the matter of alimony for divorced Muslim women never cropped up again.

    Till now, that is, when the Supreme Court rejected Mohd. Abdul Samad's appeal against a family court's order to pay Rs 20,000 per month to his divorced wife and stop butting heads with the law of the land. This Supreme Court order was a bolt from the blue. “Islamic law has been there for nearly 1500 years and nobody, not even the Supreme Court, is above the Quran,” Muslim panelist after Muslim panelist trotted out in TV debates.

    One television anchor with the loudest throat in the media asked, “The Supreme Court had come out in favour of Uniform Civil Code for all of India, right?” Does the Narendra Modi-led NDA government have the mojo and the guts? Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had “400 paar”; Prime Minister Narendra Modi could only yell with a grated throat.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi's coalition compulsions prevent him from taking bold decisions. Modi's clay feet, further worsened by Achilles Heel, are all over the place. The NDA government cannot do a Rajiv Gandhi. Ditto the Congress-led INDI-Alliance. Even if the INDI-Alliance replaces the NDA government, like RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has predicted will happen in August, a Rahul Gandhi-led dispensation wouldn't have the majority to pass another law to do a Rajiv Gandhi on this 2024 Supreme Court order.

    Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his brute majority was a unique occurrence, a planetary alignment that happens once in a 1000 years! This matter of divorced Muslim women's entitlement to maintenance has already become an election issue and will impact the assembly elections in , Jharkhand and Maharashtra. The NDA government will face the brunt of Muslim votes consolidation on this issue even as the BJP will use the apex court order to influence the Hindu voting pattern.

    Pressure will mount on the INDI-Alliance to do something for the Muslim vote-bank — at least promise to do something, anything. It is another matter that none of the Congress-ruled states will be able to do anything as the state governments are up against a Supreme Court ruling. Only Parliament can overturn a Supreme Court order as Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had shown in the era gone by.

    Leader of Opposition in the Rahul Gandhi will be helpless in the face of Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) that applies to all married women regardless of their religion. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi could appease the Congress' Muslim vote bank. Thirty-eight years on, the apex court has noted the “secular nature” of its July 10 order, but for the Congress-led INDI-Alliance, any law that interferes with Muslim personal law is no no.

    That being said, the focus is once more on the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986, but neither secular political parties nor Muslims of India believe that what goes around must come around. Ask the Hindu and he will swear that ‘Karma' applies to everybody. But ask the Congress and its votebank and it could be “What Karma?”. Fact remains, the top court got a second chance to do the right thing towards divorced Muslim women. ‘Karma' it must be, the Supreme Court order of July 10, ruling in favour of the helpless women all over again.

    (IPA Service)





    The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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