Maintenance of Parents & Senior Citizens Act- DM to ensure the protection of life and property of senior citizens to enable them to live with security and dignity
It is common knowledge that the plight of senior citizens in our country is deplorable. They are being regularly subjected to harrassment, physical & mental torture and regular abuse at the hands of their very own children. The Government was forced to legislate the Maintenance of Parents & Senior Citizens Act, 2007 to enable the elders to lead a peaceful & honourable life. The Rules to the Senior Citizens Act have also been made to enable easy implementation of the objectives of the Act. However, it is a matter of concern that the desired results have not been achieved. One main reason is lack of due awareness of the Act and the apathy of the administration which was mandated to administer the new law.
Recently the Allahabad High Court has categorically held that DM is obligated to provide protection & security to senior citizens under Senior Citizens Act, 2007. At the very outset, it is relevant that Section 22 of the said Act empowers the DM to ensure that the provisions of the said Act are properly carried out. It would be trite to reproduce the relevant portion of the rule 21 which reads as under:
“Duties and Power of the District Magistrate
21(2) It shall be the duty of the District Magistrate to;
(i) ensure that life and property of senior citizens of the district are protacaected and they are able to live with security and dignity;……..”
The Bench of the Allahabad High Court comprising of Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Saurabh Lavania in the case of State of U.P.Thru Prin. Secy. Social Welfare Deptt.Lko & Ors. on 2nd December, 2020 ruled that the DM is duty bound for protection and security of senior citizen harassed by their children.
The brief facts of the case are that a senior scientist Dr. Krishna Pal Singh and his wife claimed that the two daughters of the petitioners and their sons-in- law are likely to grab their house and have inducted one stranger in the house disturbing their life. They moved an application before the DM Lucknow and demanded their personal safety & protection of their property. However, the DM did not take any action on the said application.
The Court observed that the Uttar Pradesh Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules, 2014 framed under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 casts an obligation upon the district administration to ensure that the life and property of senior citizens are protected and they are able to live with peace, security and dignity.
The Court held that under Rule 21 of the said Rules the District Magistrate is duty bound to take appropriate steps and action on the aforesaid application of the petitioners moved before him. The court further directed the DM to take immediate action within one month.
It is apposite to refer to the earlier judgement of the Allahabad High Court in Km. Janki Devi And Anr. vs State Of U.P. And 2 Ors. delivered on 30 October, 2017. The said judgement deals at length with the objectives of the said Act. The relevant portions of the said judgement elucidating the purpose of the Act and the relevant Rules are reproduced as under:
“9. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 was promulgated to provide for more effective provision for maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens. The statement of Objects and Reasons pointed out that the traditional norms and value of the Indian Society which lays stress on providing care for elderly is waning due to withering of the joint family system. The elders are facing emotional neglect and lack of physical and financial support. The Objects and Reasons notices that aging has become a major social challenge and despite the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure for maintenance, it was deemed necessary that there should be a simple, inexpensive and speedy provision to claim maintenance for the parents and senior citizens. The Act is not restricted to only providing maintenance but cast an obligation on the persons who inherit the property of their aged relatives to maintain such aged relatives. One of the major aims is to provide for institutionalization of a suitable mechanism for protection of life and property of older persons.
10. The Act provides for the State Government to create a mechanism and provide maintenance to the senior citizens and also to provide medical facilities to them as well as to protect their life and property. The Act also provides for setting up of old age homes in every District.
14. Section 21 of the Act provides that the State Government shall take all measures to give wide publicity through public media including television, radio & the print and sensitise not only the public but also Central and State Government employees, police officers and members of the judicial service on the issues relating to this Act.
15. Sub clause (2) of Section 22 of the Act further provides that the State Government shall prescribe a comprehensive action plan for providing protection of life and property of senior citizens.
16. Section 32 of the Act gives power to the State Government to make rules for carrying out the purposes of the Act, based on which, the Uttar Pradesh Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules, 2014 (hereinafter referred to as the Rules of 2014.) was enacted.
17. Rule 21 of the Rules of 2014 gives powers and duties to the District magistrate to ensure that the life and property of the senior citizens of the districts are protected and that they are able to live life with security and dignity. The District Magistrate has also been given powers to oversee and monitor that adequate maintenance is provided to the senior citizens and to ensure that the provisions of the Act are carried out.
18. Rule 22 of the Rules of 2014 provides that the District Superintendent of Police shall take necessary steps for protection of life and property of the senior citizens and that each police station shall maintain an up-to-date list of senior citizens and that a representative of the police station shall visit such senior citizens at regular intervals at least once a month and the complaints and problems of the senior citizens would be promptly attended to by the police station.”
However, the Court was displeased with the State Government & administration to have totally failed in their duty to provide publicity to the said Act and to sensitise its employees and implement the provisions of the Act and the Rules of 2014. The Court was also irked that the State government has not issued any direction under Section 22 of the Act to all District Magistrates to implement the provisions of the Act nor any steps have been taken by the State Government to constitute an old age home in each district under Section 19 of the Act. The Court also expressed displeasure for the State Government not issuing directions to the District Magistrates of all the districts in the State of Uttar Pradesh for implementation of the Act and Rules of 2014 and further directions to the District Superintendent of Police or Divisional Inspector General of Police providing guidelines for protection of life and property of senior citizens under Rule 22 of the Rules of 2014.
The Court ordered for the proper care of the elders holding administration to take proper care of the senior citizens as provided in the Senior Citizens Act & Rules framed thereunder. The Court held thus:
“(viii) The District Magistrate will ensure that the life and property of petitioner no.1 is protected and that petitioner no.1 is able to live her remaining life with security and dignity as provided under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
(ix) The District Magistrate will oversee and monitor the entire welfare of petitioner no.1 and would be personally responsible.”
The Court issued directions to the State Government to be implemented throughout the State of Uttar Pradesh in very strict terms within a period of 3 months from the date of the order and held thus:
“26. In addition to the aforesaid, we direct the Chief Secretary, Government of Uttar Pradesh to issue necessary orders for implementation of the provisions of the Act and the Rules within three months, namely:-
a) The establishment of Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal under Section 5 and 15 of the Act.
b) Designation of Maintenance Officer under Section 18 of the Act.
c) Establishment of old age homes under Section 19 of the Act.
d). Take appropriate measures to give wide publicity in the media, (print, television and radio) and to sensitize the public and also the police officers, employees of the State Government including members of the judicial service, etc. under Rule 21 of the Rules, 2014.
e) Provide guidelines conferring powers and duties on the District Magistrate under Rule 22 of the Rules, 2014.
f) Constitute District Committee of senior citizens under Rule 24 of the Rules, 2014.”
However, inspite of Court’s explicit orders nothing has been done so far. The senior citizens are languishing in pain, hunger, disrespect and loneliness in the twilight years of their life inspite the enactment of the Senior Citizens Act. It is pertinent that the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019 has been introduced in Lok Sabha to strengthen the earlier Act with a view to make the life of the senior citizens more secure & peaceful.
It is our bounden duty to love & protect our parents and senior citizens. It is a part of our rich culture and heritage to worship our parents even above God. They have been instrumental in our education, upkeep and growth. It is the duty of the children to reciprocate and show their gratitude towards the parents. However, if the children fail in their duty towards the parents, the Senior Citizens Act empowers the administration, particularly the District Magistrate, to intervene and ensure the safety, security and peaceful & honorable life of the parents and the senior citizens.