New Delhi: It is said that you can repay every debt but you can never repay the debt of parents. In our society and our traditions, the status of parents is no less than that of God. But is it really so? It is a matter of regret that on the land of Shravan Kumar, who used to make blind and elderly parents sit on a kanwar and make them go on pilgrimage, it does not surprise the parents to be left in old age homes in their old age. Throwing your own child out of the house in old age, nothing can be more shameful than this. Earlier this month, the Chhattisgarh High Court said in one of its important decisions that if the son does not serve the elderly father, then he has no right on his father’s house. In this issue of ‘Haq Ki Baat’ series, we talk about the rights of the elderly, what are the provisions for them in the law? How many times have the courts given major decisions in this regard which became Nazir?
Son has no right to live in the house if he does not take care of his parents: High Court
First of all, the decision of the Chhattisgarh High Court that came in the past. Sewalal Baghel, a resident of Kasimpara area of Raipur, alleged that his son and daughter-in-law live in his own house in Raipur but do not take care of him. He had retired from government service. The house was bought by the old man himself but the son-daughter-in-law used to threaten to evict him from his own house. Because of this he was forced to stay with his elder son. Fed up with the harassment of the son and daughter-in-law, Sewalal lodged a complaint with the Raipur Collector under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. Giving relief to them, the Collector ordered the daughter-in-law and son to vacate the house within 7 days. Along with this, ordered to give alimony of Rs 5 thousand every month to the elderly. Son Neeraj Baghel challenged this order of the Collector in the Chhattisgarh High Court but the court rejected his petition. Justice Deepak Tiwari’s bench upheld the collector’s order asking the son to vacate the house within 7 days. However, the order for alimony of Rs 5,000 per month to the old man was canceled as he was not facing any problem of subsistence due to pension. The High Court said in its decision that if the elders do not take care of the father, then the son has no right over the house. The court observed that neglect of tradition, decline in ethos and morals has led to neglect of elders.
3-3 sons but left destitute in old age, the old man tried to kill himself
Last year, an 83-year-old man named Vanshram tried to commit suicide by jumping into a river in UP’s Basti. He jumped into the Sarayu river in Ayodhya but thankfully he was saved in time by the local boatmen and water police. Vanshram had not one or two but three sons, but he left his father helpless in his old age. He had given all his land and property to his sons, but none of the three had any place to keep the old man!
Son’s moral duty and legal obligation to take care of parents in old age: Supreme Court
In November 2021, the Supreme Court strongly reprimanded a son who was reluctant to pay alimony of Rs 10,000 every month to his elderly father. The court said that taking care of the parents in their old age is not only the moral duty of the son but also a legal obligation. The 72-year-old was a mason. He had 2 sons and 6 daughters. The elders lived with their elder son’s family in a 30-square-yard house in Delhi’s Krishna Nagar. The house had already been divided among the family members. But the married daughters left their share to the father due to which they got a very small place to live in the corner of the house. But the sons stopped paying for her maintenance and her basic needs. In 2015, the elder moved the family court. The court ordered his real estate dealer son to pay Rs 6,000 per month as maintenance to his father, starting in 2015. Thus the son was asked to pay Rs 1,68,000 in lump sum along with arrears in addition to the monthly alimony but he deposited only Rs 50,000. Later, the trial court increased the amount of alimony from Rs.6,000 to Rs.10,000 per month and asked to pay the remaining arrears at the new rate. After this, the son started filing petitions in various forums to avoid paying maintenance. Sometimes in the District Court, sometimes in the Delhi High Court and finally in the Supreme Court. The son argued in the apex court that his financial condition is not sufficient to pay alimony of 10,000 months. Reprimanding his excuses, the Supreme Court said that it is not only the moral duty of the son to take care of the elderly parents but also a legal obligation.
Elderly parents have right on property, daughter-in-law and son only licensees: Calcutta High Court
In July 2021, the Calcutta High Court gave an important decision in one such case that only the elderly parents have the right over the property, their sons and daughters-in-law are just licensees of the property and they can be evicted from the house. The Court remarked that a country cannot achieve complete civilization if it cannot take care of its elderly and vulnerable citizens.
Children have to take care of parents: Punjab and Haryana High Court
In July 2021, the Punjab and Haryana High Court said in its order that children have to take care of their parents. The case was related to a 76 year old widow. The woman had alleged that in 2015, her son had fraudulently got her property in his name. After this he started beating them on every issue. Panchayat was also held 2-3 times for reconciliation but there was no change in the attitude of the son. Eventually the woman took the support of the law. A bench of Justices AG Masih and Ashok Kumar Verma said in its decision that children have to take care of their elderly parents. Along with this, the court also canceled the transfer of the woman’s property in the name of the son.
According to the 2011 census, then the number of senior citizens in the country was 7.7 crore, which was about 7.5 percent of the total population. This number has increased over time. According to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s Annual Action Plan (2022-23) for the elderly, in 2021, the population of the elderly in the country was about 14 crore, which means their share in the population is more than 10 percent. Various legal provisions have been made to ensure a dignified life for the elderly. Sometimes due to fear of local law and sometimes due to lack of awareness, elders are forced to bear the harassment of their own children. If you are elderly and your children are not taking care of you, then you should take the help of law. If you see an elderly person being abused around you, then you can get justice through these legal channels.
Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007
Through this law, it has been made mandatory for children/relatives to take care of parents/senior citizens, arrange for their basic needs like health, treatment, living and food. According to the law, this is the responsibility of the adult grandchildren along with the sons and daughters. Whether these sons and daughters are biological children of the elderly or step-daughter or adopted, this law applies to all of them. It is their responsibility to fulfill the basic needs like living, food, clothes, treatment for the parents. There is a preparation to bring the children of daughter-in-law, son-in-law and daughter under the purview of this law. In 2019, the central government had also brought an amendment bill in which an attempt was made to remove the loopholes of the 2007 law.
According to this law, the relatives of the elderly would include all his legal heirs (except the minor) who are legally entitled to his property thereafter. If children or relatives are not fulfilling their responsibility, then there is a provision of punishment for them. The culprits can be punished with imprisonment of up to 3 months or a fine of up to Rs 5000 or both.
If sons and daughters do not take care, the elders have the right to expel them from their homes.
It is generally seen that the attitude of relatives changes as soon as the property is transferred. But if an elderly person has transferred his property in the name of children or relatives and they are no longer taking care of him, then the transfer of property can also be cancelled. That is, the property will again be in the name of the old man who transferred it. After this, if he wants, he can also evict his sons and daughters from the property.
Even if the property has been given in the name of children, relatives, the elderly can get it back
Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 After the coming into force of the law, if an elderly person has transferred his property in the name of children or relatives, by way of gift or in any other legal way, in whose name the property has been transferred It is their responsibility to take care of the basic needs of the elderly. Take care of them. If they do not do so, the property transfer can be cancelled. This provision of the law is a great relief for the elderly.
Right to alimony up to Rs 10,000 per month
Elderly parents who are not able to support themselves through their income or property and are not being looked after by their children or relatives can claim maintenance. Such elders can get a subsistence allowance of up to Rs 10,000 per month. It is mandatory to comply with the maintenance order within one month. Such persons above 60 years i.e. SEIR citizens who do not have any children can also demand maintenance from their relatives/heirs of their property. Provision has been made in the law for maintenance tribunal and appellate tribunal to hear such cases. Most of the districts of the country have such tribunals. After receiving the complaint from the elderly, the tribunal has to dispose of it within 90 days.
This is how you can claim for maintenance
For this an application has to be made to the Tribunal. There is no need of any lawyer for this. The elder can apply himself or can also authorize any person or NGO for this. The tribunal itself can also take cognizance. If the tribunal is satisfied that the children or relatives are negligent or refusing to take care of the elderly, it can order them to pay maintenance every month, subject to a maximum of Rs 10,000 per month. However, now the government is preparing to abolish this upper limit. If not satisfied with the decision of the Tribunal, the elder can also challenge it in the Appellate Tribunal.
Provision of monthly alimony for elderly parents in CrPC as well
Apart from the ‘Care and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007’, CrPC also has provisions to protect the rights of the elderly. Under Section 125 (1) (d) of CrPC and also under Section 20 (1 and 3) of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act 1956, parents are entitled to maintenance from their children. According to Section 125(1) of the CrPC, if the children are not taking care of their parents, then the First Class Magistrate can order them to pay maintenance. However, this amount is not fixed and can be fixed by the Magistrate in his discretion on a case to case basis.