The principle of Iddat, or Iddah, is particularly significant in Islamic law. The Act mentions the ‘Iddat’ time in Section 2 of the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 (hence referred to as The Act). When a marriage is dissolved due to death or separation, the woman is barred from marrying again for a set period of time.
Iddah is the name for this fixed time. It is a period of restraint for the woman. The purpose of iddah is to determine whether or not the lady is pregnant and to avoid any confusion about paternity. Failure to respect the ‘iddah’ time may result in the annulment of the second marriage.
In the context of divorce, the Act defines the iddah period as follows:
1.) Three menstrual cycles following the divorce date, if she is menstrually dependent.
2.) Three lunar months following the separation, assuming she is not reliant on her menstrual cycle.
3.) If she is pregnant at the time of her divorce, the time between the divorce and the birth of her child, or the end of her pregnancy, whichever comes first.
In the event of the husband’s death, the Iddah period begins:
1.) If a marriage is broken up because of the death of the husband, the bereaved widow must observe iddah for four months and ten days. It makes no difference whether or not culmination occurred in this case.
2.) If a woman in this period becomes pregnant, her iddah period extends until her child is born.
Iddah period if the husband dies while the iddah period of divorce is observed: In the case of a woman who has been separated from her husband and is contemplating divorce, an iddah of a quarter of a year would be observed. If her husband dies during this time, she must observe a new iddah for four months and ten days from the day of the spouse’s death.
MAINTENANCE DURING AND AFTER IDDAT: The divorced wife is entitled to fair and equitable maintenance from her husband during the Iddah period. In Mohammed Ahmed Khan v. Shah Bano, an apex court bench led by Justice Chandrachud held that if a wife is unable to support herself, a husband is obligated to pay her maintenance even after iddah under section 125 of the Cr.PC, and if she is able to support herself, maintenance will cease after iddat.
The Supreme Court also read the Quran, holding that there is no conflict between Muslim personal law and section 125 of the CrPC because, even under Muslim law, a husband must assist his divorced wife.
In Usman Khan Bahamani v. Fathimunnisa Begum, the Andhra Pradesh High Court declared that a Muslim lady is only entitled to maintenance during the time of iddah. Furthermore, the court interpreted the term “within” in Section 3(1) of the Muslim Women Act rather broadly. According to the court, a husband is only liable for equal and proper care throughout the iddah era and only for the iddah time. The Supreme Court interpreted section 4 of the Muslim Women Act, which requires families to assist divorced women during the iddah period, in Iqbal Bano v. the State of Uttar Pradesh. The court decided that fair and equal provision preservation can only be sought from the ex-husband and not from family members. According to Shabana Bano v Imran Khan, a Muslim divorced woman can seek compensation under section 125 of the CrPC even after the iddah period has elapsed.
According to Muslim personal law, a husband is only allowed to support his wife during the iddah time, after which the woman is left to her own resources. In the Shah Bano case, the Supreme Court bucked tradition by permitting maintenance after the iddah time.
1.) During Iddat, it is Haraam for a woman to engage in actions such as applying lipstick or beautifying herself in any way.
2.) She may not wear silk or other flashy clothing. At this time, no special color, such as black or white, is required; any basic and plain clothing will suffice.
3.) Unless there is an emergency, such as a medical emergency or a personal matter that prevents a doctor from making a house call, she is not permitted, before the end of the iddat time, to leave the house.
CONCLUSION: We live in a time where technology is evolving at a breakneck speed. The Iddat period is utilized to determine paternity, as previously stated. Technology, on the other hand, can now tell whether or not a woman is pregnant in a matter of days.
Working women, on the other hand, are unable to stay at home for such an extended amount of time. In today’s world, Iddah, in my opinion, is no longer relevant. According to a recent Delhi Court judgment, any marriage done by a Muslim woman during the iddat period is considered an irregular marriage rather than a void (batil) marriage.
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