It is universally accepted that parents’ love is unconditional and boundless which can never be paid off by their off-springs. It is an incredible reality that a parent can raise his children only with a handful of resources, however, it is burdensome for the children to take care of their old parents despite existing financial stability. When the parents get old and they are not capable of taking care of themselves, children are obligated to provide financial as well as emotional support to their parents and the senior citizens of their family. Due to the advancement of society into a modern and contemporary arena, the trend of nuclear living is advancing simultaneously. However, Everyone these days is so engrossed in their personal growth that they have forgotten the morals and principles of intimacy, love, and care. The morals that bind a parent to his children are lost somewhere in the hustle of self-growth and enhancement. This economic dependence of parents on their children has given birth to greater impediments for the parents and the senior citizens who are often abandoned by their children and relatives.
In the past decades, India has seen a rising trend of abandoning parents and sending them to old-age homes. This not only affects the individual who’s being abandoned but also has a recurrent effect on the growth of the society as a whole. This kind of practice discourages the mandates of love, care, togetherness, and warm fellowship in a society. In a society like ours, escaping one’s duties towards parents and elderly persons is not at all a feasible option to get away with one’s moral and ethical obligations towards them. To help curb this problem and to overcome the evils faced by elderly members of society, there was a need for controlling legislation. Though the parents and senior citizens were entitled to claim maintenance under section 125 of CrPc 1973, the procedure was very extensive and time-consuming to provide redressal to the petitioners. Hence, in the year 2007, the Indian parliament made a notable move by enacting the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. Any person who is not capable of maintaining himself out of his earning is entitled to make an application for maintenance under this Act. This Act was made with an object to realize children’s obligation to ‘take care’ towards their parents and senior citizens. This Act brought some major changes in the way children used to circumvent their duty towards their parents. This Act sought to curb the lack of filial piety by imposing legal obligations on the wrongdoers.
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The MWPSC Act, 2007:
Elderly citizens are an integral part of our society. It is not only the duty of the children to take care of the elderly citizens but a paramount subject of the state to protect the rights and provide quality of life to all its citizens. Article 41 under the head Directive Principles of States Policy enunciates this duty of the state towards its senior citizens in the following manner:
“The State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right of public assistance in cases of old age”.
This Act focuses on the protection of social security of elderly citizens and promoting filial piety amongst the present-day generations. This legislation was made to provide speedier recovery to the parents and senior citizens demanding maintenance from their children. A separate tribunal under this act was established to hear the petitions in this regard. However, many loopholes were pre-existing that made the operations of this Act very inconvenient. So recently in the year, 2019 several important amendments were made to this Act which is enumerated as under-
- The definition of ‘children’ in section 2(a) of this Act has been expanded to not only include biological and adoptive children but also grandchildren either son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and legal guardians of minor children. This amendment will cast an obligation to ‘take care’ not only of the immediate blood relations but also of the other relatives of the elderly citizens.
- Another significant amendment is the removal of the upper limit of Rs.10,000 of the award to be granted by this tribunal under this Act. Now the tribunal has the authority to grant equitable amounts for maintenance as per the needs of the parents and the senior citizens.
- The principle of the right to live with human dignity enunciated under Article 21 is to be emphasized for the purposes of this Act.
The state has not only made a notable move by making certain major amendments in the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 but at the same time, there are several schemes of the government being organized for providing social security and a standard of living to the elderly populace of the country. Some of these are like Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, the Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana, and The Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PNVVY). According to a study, almost half the ratio of women and 70 percent of men use some kind of social security scheme for their livelihood and protection of interest.
The major issue posed in the way of achievement of the objectives of these social security schemes is that the maximum elderly populace is unaware of these government policies. And even if they are aware of these policies, the procedure involved in these schemes is itself very lengthy and inconvenient. If they can get over all the hurdles and access the schemes, then the amount they receive is very meagre and unsatisfactory. It is apparent to note that the provident fund scheme is only available to the organized sector and hence leaving the unorganized sector on their fate. Due to these reasons, the elderly citizens have to depend upon their children and relatives for emotional and financial support. It becomes even more difficult for them when they are being abandoned by their offsprings.
To overcome these loopholes, the Indian judiciary has time and again made several landmark decisions marking the way of justice for the social security of senior citizens. One such decision was pronounced in Dr. Ashwani Kumar’s case where the union and the state government was directed to implement the act effectively.
Recent Legal Pronouncements
- Sunny Paul & Anr. v. State NCT of Delhi and Ors.- This was a landmark case wherein it was observed that a claim of eviction under section 4 of this act is not only maintainable against the children but the grandchildren as well.
- Dattatrey Shivaji Mane v. Lilabai Shivaji Mane & Ors.- Similarly relying on the decision in Sunny Paul’s case, it was observed in this case by the Bombay High Court that a senior citizen has the right of eviction under section 4 of this act as well as he has a right to claim maintenance not only from his children but also grandchildren if such elderly citizen is not capable of maintaining himself out of his earning or out of the earnings from his property.
- Simultaneously Uttarakhand High Court has made a landmark decision by recognizing senior citizens’ right to live with human dignity in Senior Citizen Welfare Organization & another v. State of Uttarakhand & Anr. In addition to this, this court has also directed the state to maintain old-age homes.
- While liberally interpreting section 24 of this Act, Chhattisgarh High Court in Pramod Ranjankar & Anr. v. Arunashankar & Ors. held that the respondents must be evicted from the house of their parents if they leave the parent with an intention to permanently abandon them. Further, it was observed by this court that a transfer of any property made by a parent in favour of his children will be deemed void if the transferee fails to satisfy the basic needs of the parent.
It is opined in the view of the above discussion that there is a need to further strengthen the roots of social security for the benefit of the elderly populace of the country. The first step towards this shall be spreading awareness to all the rural-urban people regarding the various social security schemes. Next, these schemes shall be designed in such a manner that it is accessible to all elderly people. And it shall be ensured that equal treatment is given to all the people irrespective of their social status. The government has to play a key role in enhancing the function of these social security schemes in light of the Maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens. Senior citizens are an indispensable part of our society. And the younger generations are obligated to take care of them. Efforts shall be made to inculcate values of filial piety among the younger generation so that they can contribute towards making society a better place for the elderly people to live in. The principles of love, affection, togetherness and warm fellowship shall be promoted as far as possible. Not only this, adequate punishments are to be granted to all the lawbreakers. It shall be ensured that every such petition is heard on merits and justice be served to the elderly person.
- Kopal Mital, Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act: An inadequate care Regime, 19 October 2020, available at: maintenance-and-welfare-of-parents-and-senior-citizens-act-an-inadequate-care-regime (Last visited on 20 December, 2020).
- Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007, available at : http://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A2007-56.pdf (Last visited on 20 December, 2020).
- The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 41.
- The Constitution of India, 1950, Art. 21.
- Dr. Ashwani Kumar v. Union of India, available at: Dr. Ashwani Kumar v. Union of India (Last visited on 21 December 2020).
- W.P.(C) 10463/2015.
- Writ Petition no. 10611 of 2018.
- Writ Petition (PIL) No. 52 of 2013.
- AIR 2018 CHH 150.
BY PRERNA SINGH | GURU NANAK DEV UNIVERSITY, AMRITSAR.