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Punjab custom–Principles to be observed in dealing with customary law stated–Essentials of valid custom. = The plaintiff, a Rajput belonging to Tehsil Garhshankar in the District of Hoshiarpur (Punjab), instituted a suit against the defendant for the recovery of the properties which belonged to a deceased Gurkha woman R and which she had acquired by way of gift from a stranger, alleging that he was the lawfully wedded husband of Rand that accord- ing to custom which applied to the parties with regard to succession he was entitled to succeed to the moveable and immoveable properties of R in preference to the defendant who was his daughter by R. Held, that even if it be assumed that R was lawfully married to the plaintiff, the question to be decided would be whether succession to property which R had received as a gilt from a stranger and which she owned in her own right would be governed by the custom governing her husband’s family and not her own. Such marriage as was alleged to have been contracted by the plaintiff being evidently an act of rare occurrence, the rule of succession set up by the plaintiff cannot be said to derive its force from long usage and the plaintiff was not, in any event, entitled to succeed. Their Lordships laid down the general principles which should be kept in view in dealing with questions of custom- ary law as follows: (1) It should be recognised that many of the agricultur- al tribes in the Punjab are governed by a variety of cus- toms, which depart from the ordinary rules of Hindu and Muhammadan law, in regard to inheritance and other matters mentioned in section 5 of the Punjab Laws Act, 1872. (2) In spite of the above fact, there is no presumption that a particular person or class of persons is governed by custom, and a party who is alleged to be governed by custom- ary law must prove that he is so governed and must also prove the existence of the custom set up by him. (See Daya Ram v. Sohel Singh and Others, 110 P R. (1906) 390 at 410; Abdul Hussein Khan v. Bibi Song Dero, L.R. 45 I.A. 10). (3) A custom, in order to be binding, must derive its force from the fact that by long usage it has obtained the force of law, but the English rule that “a CUstOm, in order that it may be legal and binding, must have been used so long that the memory of man runneth not to the contrary” should not be strictly 826 applied to Indian conditions. All that is necessary to prove is that the usage has been acted upon in practice for such a long period and with such invariability as to show that it has, by common consent, been submitted to as the established governing rule of a particular locality. (See Mt. Subhani v. Nawab, A.I.R. 1941 P.C. 21 at 32). (4) A custom may be proved by general evidence as to its existence by members of the tube or family who would natur- ally be cognizant of its existence and its exercise without controversy, and such evidence may be safely acted on when it is supported by a public record of custom such as the Riwaj-i-am or Manual of Customary Law. (See Abroad Khan v. Mt. Channi Bibi, A.I.R. 1925P.C. 267 at 271). (5) No statutory presumption attaches to the contents of a Riwaj-i-am or similar compilation, but being a public record prepared by a public officer in the discharge of his duties under Government rules, the statements to be found therein in support of custom are admissible to prove facts recited therein and will generally be regarded as a strong piece of evidence of the custom. The entries in the Riwaj-i-am may however be proved to be incorrect, and the quantum of evidence required for the purpose of rebutting them will vary with the circumstances each case. The presumption of correctness attaching to a Riwaj-i-am may be rebutted, if it is shown that it affects adversely the rights of females or any other class of persons who had no opportunity of appearing before the revenue authorities. (See Beg v. Allah Ditta, A.I.R. 1916 P.C. 129 at 131 ;Saleh Mohammad v. Zawar Hussain A.I.R. 1944 P.C. 18; Mt. Subhani v. Nawab, A.I.R. 1941 P.C. 21 at 25). (6)When the question of custom applicable to an agricultur- ist is raised, it is open to a party who denies the applica- tion custom to show that the person who claims to be gov- erned by it has completely and permanently drifted away from agriculture and agricultural associations and settled for good in urban life and adopted trade, service, etc., as his principal occupation and means and source of livelihood, and does not follow other customs applicable to agriculturists. (See Muhammad Hayat Khan v. Sandhe Khan and Others, 55 P.R. (1906) 270 at 274; Muzaffar Muhammad v. Imam Din, I.L.R. (1928) 9 Lab. 120, 125). (7) The opinions expressed by the compiler of a Riwaj-i-am or Settlement Officer as a result of his intimate knowledge and investigation of the subject, are entitled to weight which will vary with the circumstances of each case. The only safe rule to be laid down with regard to the weight to be attached to the compiler’s remarks is that if they repre- sent his personal opinion or bias and detract from the record of long standing custom, they will not be sufficient to displace the custom, but if they are the result of his inquiry and investigation as to the scope of the 827 applicability of the custom and any special sense in which the exponents of the custom expressed themselves in regard to it, such remarks should be given due weight. (See Narain Singh v. Mr. Basant Kaur A.I.R. 1935 Lah. 419 at 421,422; Mr. Chinto v. Thelur, A.I.R. 1935 Lah. 98S; Khedam Hussain v. Mohammad Hussain, A.I.R. 1941 Lah. 73 at 79). =1952 AIR 231, 1952SCR 825, , ,

PETITIONER: THAKUR GOKALCHAND Vs. RESPONDENT: PARVIN KUMARI. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 16/05/1952 BENCH: FAZAL ALI, SAIYID BENCH: FAZAL ALI, SAIYID BOSE, VIVIAN CITATION: 1952 AIR 231 1952 SCR 825 CITATOR INFO : R 1971 SC1398 (6) RF 1991 SC1654 (15,35) ACT: Punjab custom–Principles to be observed in dealing with customary law stated–Essentials of valid custom. HEADNOTE: … Continue reading

Muslim Personal Law-Concept of divorce-Whether, on the pronounccments of “talaq” and on the expiry of the period of iddat a divorced wife ceases to be a wife. Code of Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (Act II of 1974) Sections 125(1) (a) and Explanation (b) thereunder, Section 125 (3) and the Explanation, under the proviso thereto and section 127 (3) (b), scope and interpretation of-Correctness of three Judges.’ Bench decision reported in (1979) 2 SCR 75 and (1980) 3 SCR 1127 to the effect that section 125 of the code applies to Muslims and divorced Muslim wife is entitled to maintenance-Whether there is any conflict between the provisions of section 125 and that of the Muslim Personal Law on the liability of the Muslim husband to provide for the maintenance of his divorced wife. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, section 127 (3) (b) read with section 2 of the Shariat Act XXVI of 1937-Whether section 127 (3) (b) debars payment of maintenance to a divorced wife, once the Mahar or dower is paid-Whether the liability of the husband to maintain a divorced wife is limited to the period of “iddat” Nature of Mahr or dower-Whether Mehr is maintenance. = Under section 125 (1) (a), if any person, having sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain his wife, unable to maintain herself, a Magistrate of the first class may, upon proof of such neglect or refusal order such person to make a monthly allowance for the maintenance of his wife at such monthly rate not exceeding five hundred rupees in the whole. Under Explanation (b) thereunder ‘ wife” includes a woman who has been divorced by, or has obtained a divorce from her husband and has not remarried. Under the explanation below sub section 3 of section 125, if a husband has contracted marriage with another woman or keeps a mistress it shall be considered to be a just ground for his wife’s refusal to live with him. Keeping this in view, if in the trial arising out of 845 an application made under section 125, and if the husband offers to maintain his wife on condition of living with him, the Magistrate may consider any of the grounds of the wife’s refusal to live with her husband before ordering the maintenance. Under section 127 (3) (b), the Magistrate shall cancel the order passed by him under section 125, in favour of a woman who has been divorced by, or has obtained a divorce from her husband if the woman who has been divorced by her husband has received, whether before or after the date of the said order, the whole of the sum, which, under any customary or personal law applicable to the parties was payable on such divorce. The appellant. who is an advocate by profession was married to the respondent in 1932. Three ions and two daughters were born of that marriage In 1975, the appellant drove the respondent out of the matrimonial home. In April 1978, the respondent filed a petition against the appellant under section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate (First class) Indore, asking for maintenance at the rate of Rs. 500 per month, in view of the professional income of the appellant which was about Rs. 60,000 per annum. On November 6, 1978, the appellant divorced the respondent by an irrevocable “talaq” and took up the defence that she had ceased to be his wife by reason of the divorce granted by him; that he was, therefore, under no obligation to provide maintenance for her; that he had already paid maintenance for her at the rate of Rs. 200 per month for about two years, and that, he had deposited a sum of Rs. 3,000 in the court by way of “dower or Mahr” during the period of “iddat”. In August 1979, the Magistrate directed the appellant to pay a princely sum of Rs. 25 per month to the respondent by way of maintenance. In a revisional application Sled by the respondent the High Court of Madhya Pradesh enhanced the amount of maintenance to Rs. 179.20 per month. Hence the appeal by special leave by the husband. The view taken in the earlier two three Judges’ Benches of the Supreme Court presided over by Krishna Iyer, J. and reported in [1979] 2 SCR 75, and [1980] 3 SCR 1127, to the effect that section 125 of the Code applies to Muslims also and that therefore, the divorced Muslim wife is entitled to apply for maintenance was doubted, by the Bench consisting of Fazal Ali and Varadarajan, JJ., since in their opinion the said decisions required reconsideration by a larger Bench consisting of more than three judges as the decisions are not only in direct contravention of the plain and unambiguous language of section 127 (3) (b) of the Code which far from overriding the Muslim law on the subject protects and applies the same in case where a wife has been divorced by the husband and the dower specified has been paid and the period of iddat has been observed but also militates against the fundamental concept of divorce by the husband and its consequences under the Muslim law which has been expressly protected by section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937-an Act which was not noticed in the said two decisions. Dismissing the appeals, the Court ^ Held: (Per Chandrachud, C. J.) 1. The Judgments of the Supreme Court in Bai Tahira (Krishna lyer, J., Tulzapurkar, J. and Pathak, J.) and Fazlunbi (Krishna pyer, J, Chinnappa 846 Reddy, J. and A.P. Sen, J.) are correct, except to the extent that the statement at page 80 of the report in Bal Tahira made in the context of section 127 (3) (b) namely, “payment of Mahr money, as a customary discharge is within the cognizance of that provision”. Justice Krishna Lyre who spoke for the Court in both these cases, relied greatly on the teleological and schematic method of interpretation 90 as to advance the purpose of the law. These constructional techniques have their own importance in the interpretation of statutes meant to ameliorate the conditions of suffering sections of the society.A divorced Muslim wife is, therefore, entitled to apply for maintenance under section 125 of the Code. [865H, 866A-C] 2.1 Clause (b) of the Explanation to section 125 (1) of the Code, which defines “wife” as including a divorced wife, contains no words of limitation to justify the exclusion of Muslim women from its scope. Wife, means a wife as defined, irrespective of the religion professed by her or by her husband. Therefore, a divorced Muslim woman so long as she has not married, is a wife for the purpose of section 125. [855A-B: 854B] 2.2 Under section 488 of the Code of 1898, the wife’s right to maintenance depended upon the continuance of her married status. Therefore, that right could be defeated by the husband by divorcing her unilaterally as under the Muslim Personal Law, or by obtaining a decree of divorce against her under the other systems of law. It was in order to remove this hardship that the Joint Committee recommended that the benefit of the provisions regarding maintenance should be extended to a divorced woman, so long as she has not re married after the divorce. That is the genesis of clause (b) of the Explanation to section 125 (I). Section 125 of the Code is truly secular in character. Section 125 was enacted in order to provide a quick and summary remedy to a class of persons who are unable to maintain themselves. Whether the spouses are Hindus or Muslims, Christians or Parsis, Pagans or Heathens, is wholly irrelevant in the application of these-provisions. The reason for this is axiomatic, in the sense that section 125 is a part of the Code of Criminal Procedure not of the Civil Laws which define and govern the rights and obligations of the parties belonging to particular relations, like the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, The Shariat, or the Parsi Matrimonial Act. It would make no difference as to what ii the religion professed by the neglected wife, child or parent. [834D-E: 855E-G] 2.3 Neglect by a person of sufficient means to maintain these and the inability of these persons to maintain themselves are the objective criteria which determine the applicability of section 125. Such provisions, which are essentially of a prophylactic nature, cut across the barriers of religion. True that they do not supplant the personal law of the parties but, equally, the religion professed by the parties or the state of the personal law by which they are governed, cannot have any repercussion on the applicability of such laws unless, within the framework of the Constitution, their application is restricted to a defined category of religious groups or classes The liability imposed by section 125 to maintain close relatives who are indigent is founded upon the indi- 847 viduals’ obligation to the society t a prevent vagrancy and destitution. That is the moral edict of the law and morality cannot be clubbed With relation. [834G-Hl That the right conferred by section 125 can be exercised irrespective of the personal law of the parties, is fortified, especially in regard to Muslims, by the provision contained in the Explanation to the second proviso to section 125 (3) of the Code. The explanation confers upon the wife the right to refuse to live with her husband if he contracts another marriage leave alone, three or four other marriages, which a Mohammedan may have under the Islamic law. Further it shows unmistakably, that section 125 overrides the personal law, if there is any conflict between the two [836B-C,F-G] Jagir Kaur v. Jaswant Singh, [1964] 2 SCR 73,84, Nanak Chand v. Shri Chandra Kishore Agarwala, 11970] I SCR 56C applied. 3.1 The contention that, according to Muslim Personal Law the husband’s liability to provide for the maintenance of his divorced wife is limited to the period of iddat. despite the fact that she is unable to maintain herself cannot be accepted, since that law does not contemplate or countenance the situation envisaged by section 125 of the Code. Whether a husband is liable to maintain his wife, which includes a divorced wife, in all circumstances, and at all events is not the subject matter of section 125. Section 125 deals with cases in which a person who is possessed of sufficient means neglects or refuses to maintain amongst others, his wife who is unable to maintain herself. [838H, 851A-B] 3.2 One must have regard to the entire conspectus of the Muslim Personal Law in order to determine the extent, both in quantum and in duration, of the husband’s liability to provide for the maintenance of an indigent wife who has been divorced by him. Under that law, the husband is bound to pay Mahr to the wife as a mark of respect to her. True, that he may settle any amount he likes by way of dower upon his wife, which cannot be less than 10 Dirhams which is equivalent to three or four rupees. But one must have regard to the realities of life. Mahr is a mark of respect to the wife. The sum settled by way of Mahr is generally expected to take care of the ordinary requirements of the wife, during the marriage and after. But these provisions of the Muslim Personal Law do not countenance cases in which the wife is unable to maintain herself after the divorce. The application of those statements of law to the contrary in text-books on Muslim Law must be restricted to that class of cases, in which there is no possibility of vagrancy or destitution arising out of the indigence of the divorced wife. [858D-G] 3.3 The true position is that, if the divorced wife is able to maintain herself, the husband’s liability to provide maintenance for her ceases with the expiration of the period of iddat. If she is unable to maintain herself, she is entitled to take recourse to section 125 of the Code. Thus there is no conflict between the provisions of section 125 and those of the Muslim Personal Law on the question of the Muslim husband’s obligation to provide maintenance for a divorced wife 848 who is unable to maintain herself. Aiyat No. 241 and 242 of ‘the Holy Koran’ fortify that the Holy Koran imposed an obligation on the Muslim husband to make provision for or to provide maintenance to the divorced wife. The contrary argument does less than justice to the teachings of Koran. [859C-D; 862C-D] 3.4 Mahr is not the amount payable by the husband to the wife on divorce and therefore, does not fall within the meaning of section 127 (3) (b) of the Code and the facile answer of the All India Muslim Law Board that the Personal Law has devised the system of Mahr to meet the requirements of women and if a woman is indigent, she must look to her relations, including nephews and cousins, to support her is a most unreasonable view of law as well as of life. [863E-F, 866E-F] 3.5 It is true under the Muslim Personal Law, the amount of Mahr is usually split into two parts, one of which is called ‘prompt” which is payable on demand, and the other is called “deferred”, which is payable on the dissolution of the marriage by death or by divorce. But, the fact that deferred Mahr is payable at the time of the dissolution of marriage, cannot justify that it is payable ‘on divorce’. even assuming that, in a given case, the entire amount of Mahr is of the deferred variety payable on the dissolution of marriage by divorce, it cannot be said that it is an amount which is payable on divorce. [863B-D] 3.6 Divorce may be a convenient or identifiable point of time at which the deferred amount has to be paid by the husband to the wife. But, the payment of the amount is not occasioned by the divorce, which is what is meant by the expression ‘on divorce’, which occurs in section 127 (3) (b) of the Code. If Mahr is an amount which the wife is entitled to receive from the husband in consideration of the marriage, that is the very opposite of the amount being payable in consideration of divorce. Divorce dissolves the marriage. Therefore. no amount which is payable in consideration of the marriage can possibly be described as an amount payable in consideration of divorce. The alternative premise that Mahr is an obligation imposed upon the husband as a mark of respect for the wife, is wholly detrimental to the stance that it is an amount payable to the wife on divorce.A man may marry a woman for love, looks, learning or nothing at all. And, he may settle a sum upon her as a mark of respect for her. But he does not divorce her as a mark of respect. Therefore, a sum payable to the wife out of respect cannot be a sum payable on divorce’. Thus, the payment of Mahr may be deferred to a future date as, for example, death or divorce. But, that does not mean that the payment of the deferred dower is occasioned by these events. [863D-G] Similarly, the provision contained in section 127 (3) (b) may have been introduced because of the misconception that dower is an amount payable ‘on divorce.’ But, that again cannot convert an amount payable as a mark of respect for the wife into an amount payable on divorce. [863H] Hamira Bibi v. Zubaida Bibi, 43 Indian Appeal 294; Syed Sabir Hussain v. Farzand Hasan, 65 Indian Appeal 119 and 127 referred to. 849 OBSERVATION (Article 44 of our Constitution has remained a dead letter. There is no evidence of any official activity for framing a common civil code for the country.A common Civil Code will help the cause of national integration by removing disparate loyalties to laws which have conflicting ideologies. It is the State which incharged with the duty of securing a uniform civil code for the citizens of the country and, unquestionably, it has the legislative competence to do so.A beginning has to be made if the Constitution is to have any meaning. Inevitably, the role of the reformer has to be assumed by the courts because, it is beyond the endurance of sensitive minds to allow injustice to be suffered when it is so palpable. But piecemeal attempts of courts to bridge the gap between personal laws cannot take the place of a common Civil Code. Justice to all is a far more satisfactory way of dispensing justice than justice from case to case.) =1985 AIR 945, 1985( 3 )SCR 844, 1985( 2 )SCC 556, 1985( 1 )SCALE767 ,


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