Ten Landmark cases on Muslim Law

By | February 21, 2020
Ten Landmark cases on Muslim Law

This article envisages Ten Landmark cases on Muslim Law, evolved and interpreted over time by the Supreme Court of India. Some cases deal with the rights of woman and clarifying their position in society.

1. Mohammed Ahmed v Shah Bano and Anr. [1]

Facts of the case revolve around the concept of maintenance and dower. After the divorce of the respondent by way of ‘triple talaq’. The issue arose when she demanded maintenance from her husband.

In Muslim customs, a woman is entitled to Mehr or dower, which is given to the woman as a mark of respect and the purpose is for the woman to utilise it after the marriage or if her husband passes away.

Issue: Whether the personal laws or the Code of Criminal procedure shall apply.

Held: The case was maintainable before the Apex court because the petition was brought under the provision of Criminal procedure and the court held that the Muslim woman shall be entitled to maintenance even after the ‘iddat’ period. However, this judgment was overturned by the enactment of legislation The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce), 1986, which re-emphasised that Muslim men shall not be liable to maintain their wives after the iddat period.

2. Shayara Bano v. Union of India and others[2]

Facts of the case revolve around a resident of Uttarakhand who represented the plight of several Muslim women. She had an ugly marriage and she was divorced by her husband by way of triple talaq (Talaq-ul-biddat).

Issue: Whether this practice of triple talaq is unconstitutional because it violates Article 14,19,21 of the Constitution.

Held: The Supreme court decided that this practice is violative of Article 14 because it is only the man in the marriage who can practise it and the woman cannot hence the principle of equality is violated. By the virtue of Article 19 the woman should have the choice whilst divorce. And Article 21 ensure right to life with personal liberty.

3. Danial Latifi and another v. Union of India [3]

Facts of this case were aftermath to the Shah Bano case, where the petitioner filed the petition before the court challenging the Act of the parliament. The Act was passed as the aftermath of the Shah Bano judgment. A Muslim woman protection of rights on divorce Act,1986 was passed which envisaged that the husband in the marriage shall be liable to pay the amount of dower and the maintenance on during the period of ‘Iddat’ as embedded in the Muslim personal laws after which the husband shall not be liable or responsible to maintain his wife under any circumstances unless he would prefer it.

Issue: The issue brought before the court was to challenge the said provision enacted which was Section 3 of the Act as unconstitutional and violates Section 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

Held: The court discussed the arguments which the petitioners brought before the court. He argues that there is no reason to deprive a Muslim woman of enjoying the rights provided for her under the Criminal procedure. And that the woman should be entitled to maintenance from her husband. Hence the court decided in his favour and declared the provision unconstitutional.

4. Shamim Ara v. State of U.P. [4]

Facts of this case involve the appellant who filed for maintenance from her husband for herself and two of her four children on grounds that the husband had deserted her and treated her cruelly. The respondent claimed that dower has already been paid and the husband agreed to pay Rs. 150 per month for the maintenance of the minor child. Hence, the application for maintenance was dismissed and an appeal was filed before the Supreme Court. This appeal deals with the concept of maintenance where the wife was divorced by her husband and was also paid the dower.

Issue: Whether the court can order the husband to pay maintenance to the wife when the dower has been paid.

Held: The Apex court stated that the husband shall be liable to pay maintenance for the two sons they have borne from the marriage and therefore ordered the husband to pay maintenance so that the wife who is in custody of the children can maintain her children.

5. Sarla Mudgal vs. Union of India[5]

Facts: There were two petitions clubbed by the Supreme court. The basic facts in both these petitions were that the husband flees from the first marriage which was solemnised under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Further, the husband fled and converted into Islam only for the purpose of remarrying thereby by-passing Section 494 of Indian Penal Code that prohibits remarriage while the subsistence of one marriage.

Issues: There were two issues before the court

  1. Whether the second marriage after converting from Hindu to Islam shall be valid.

  2. Whether the man shall be liable by the virtue of Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code.

Held: The apex court held that the man is trying to invade the first marriage and leave the wife stranded. Thereby, held that since according to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, a man under its provisions cannot have two marriages at a time. It was held by the court that the second marriage shall be void in nature since the first marriage is not dissolved and the conversion which has taken place only to commit fraud and to marry two women at the same time shall hold no good. The conversion shall not be affected but the second marriage shall be void.

6. Chand Patel v. Bismillah Begum[6]

The facts of the case include the petitioner Chand Begum who filed an application for maintenance before the Magistrate for herself and her minor daughter on the ground that the respondent-husband married her sister and after which she has been neglected and not maintained.

Issues: The Supreme court dealt with the questions of:

  • Whether marriage of a Muslim man to sisters would be a valid marriage, void marriage or a mere irregular marriage and

  • Whether the husband will be liable to maintain both the sisters.

Held: The Supreme court held that the marriage of a man with two sisters shall not be void. It stated that this marriage shall merely be irregular in nature. And further discussed that the child of out such marriage shall be entitled to inheritance from his father. It was further discussed that a marriage in which the wife is Hindu and the child borne out of such marriage shall also have the right over the inheritance. It stated that marriages which have taken place without any witnesses or marriage during the ‘iddat’ period of the former wife only these are circumstances under which the marriage between the parties can be held to be invalid.

7. Ahmedabad Women Action Group (AWAG) v. Union of India [7]

Facts: This case has been filed by a voluntary organization working for women empowerment as a Public Interest Litigation. It shook the entire nation. The petitioners, in this case, challenged several traditional practices under the Muslim personal law as unconstitutional.

First, the practice of polygamy was alleged to be violative of Article 14 and 15. Second, the practice of the system of unilateral talaq by Muslim husbands as violative of Article 14 and 15. Third, to hold that remarriage during the existence of a marriage by a Muslim husband shall amount to cruelty itself. Last, to hold that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 is unconstitutional for violation of Article 14 and 15.

Held: The court observed that this practice can only be followed by the Muslim husband in the marriage and not the woman. Hence, it was also stated that this causes agony and can be a form of cruelty upon the wife. The practice of triple talaq which is a mere saying of the word Talaq causing the dissolution of marriage without giving the woman any resort in court or any other place. Leaving her high and dry when the man decides that he does not want the marriage. This tradition also can only be practised by the husband and not by the wife. The laws of inheritance are discriminatory since it does not apply to the females of the family. And she has no right whatsoever upon the property of her own family and hence, violates of Article 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

8. Imambandi v. Mutsaddi[8]

Facts: In this case, there was a property in dispute before the Bombay High Court which was claimed by three widows of a Muslim man who died intestate. The petitioner claimed that she was the mother of the child and hence, the legal guardian and therefore, was entitled to the share of the property belonging to the child. This case deals with the concept of guardianship and division of property based on guardianship.

Held: It affirms that the man is the ultimate and sole guardian of the child from the marriage this Muslim law further affirms that the on the death or demise of the man or the father of the child, the mother still is not considered the natural guardian of the child. Whereas, the grandfather or man’s father holds the position of natural guardian of the child. And after him, the father’s brother then becomes the natural guardian in the absence of grandfather.

So, this case further iterated and re-affirmed that the wife cannot hold the place of a natural guardian in case of a legitimate child.

9. Gohar Begum Nazma Begum[9]

The facts of this case deal with the guardianship of the father in case of an illegitimate child. The petitioner is the mother of an illegitimate child who has filed an application under Section 491 of CrPC to transfer the custody of the child from her husband to her. Illegitimacy of a child is a major issue in Mohammedan law and leads to several legal questions as in this case.

Issues: The issue here which the court dealt with is whether the husband or the father holds the natural guardianship of the minor illegitimate child under the Mohammedan law.

Held: Here the court affirmed, that the woman or the wife can be a natural guardian only to the illegitimate child. It affirmed that in case of an illegitimate child the circumstances are different from the legitimate child, here even the woman or the wife can be a natural guardian to the illegitimate child and non-transfer of custody of such child will amount certainly amount to illegal detention of the child under Section 491 CrPC.

10. Noor Sabha Khatoon v Md. Quasim [10]

Facts: This case specifically deals with the concept of maintenance of the child born out of the marriage after the divorce between the man and the woman. Md. Quasim was married to Noor Saba and had three children from the marriage. The respondent left the appellant with her three children without divorce and remarried to another woman. Later the wife filed an application under Section 125 CrPC for maintenance of herself and her three children which was allowed. The respondent divorced her and approached the High Court claiming that since he has divorced her, the Muslim Women Protection Act, 1986 shall apply according to which he does not need to maintain his wife and children after two years of their birth.

Issue: Whether the children out the Muslim marriage shall be entitled to maintenance under the CrPC after the divorce of the couple.

Held: The court held that the child shall be entitled to demand maintenance under 125 of the Code of Criminal procedure and also from the Muslim woman (protection of rights on divorce) Act. The father shall be liable to pay maintenance to the son until he attains the age of majority and stabilise himself and provide for himself. Further, the father shall be liable to maintain his daughter till the time she is married.

Conclusion

Hence, these are the judgments passed by the Supreme Court of India, which have changed and evolved over time and this is the current position of the Muslim Personal laws in India.


[1] 1985 SCR (3) 844

[2] 1985 (2) SCC 556

[3] (2001) 7 SCC 740

[4] (MANU/SC/0850/2002)

[5] 1995 AIR 1531

[6] (2008) 4 SCC 774

[7] (AIR (1997) 3 SCC 573

[8] (1918) 20 Bom. L. R 1022.

[9] (1960) 1 SCR 597

[10] AIR 1997 SC 3280


  1. How to file a PIL(Public Interest Litigation) ; An Introduction(Opens in a new browser tab)
  2. Types of Dower – Meaning and Relevance(Opens in a new browser tab)

5 thoughts on “Ten Landmark cases on Muslim Law

  1. AvatarAmar Sharma

    Very useful article focusing on the landmark judgements of Muslim law.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  2. AvatarVaibhav Pandey

    Thank you so much for sharing such constructive article.

    Reply
  3. AvatarVikas Kumar

    Great effort..thank you so much for bringing the entire changes in Muslim personal law in one synopsis…this should be put up to national media for acknowledgement of larget mass..People of Indian Republic…thats the strength of Independent Judiciary.

    Reply

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