In July this year, the Bombay High Court ruled that elderly parents can take back a share in their property given to a son as a gift if he fails to look after them or harasses them owing to the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
In a similar case, a family court of Ahmedabad, on Monday, ordered imprisonment of 1,545 days to a man and slapped a fine of Rs. 49,000 on him, for not providing allowance to his ageing parents, even after the court had directed him to do so.
Judge MJ Parikh of family court No 1 awarded 1,545 days of imprisonment to 45-year-old Kanji Solanki, who had failed to follow the court’s order given in 2013. A case was filed by his parents Ranchhod Solanki (69) and Jasumati Solanki (68) in 2013 for monthly maintenance, reported DNA.
“The family is sharing the same roof, but living separately. Of the two sons the couple has, one stays separately while one lives with them. The parents are aged and need some money for their monthly expenses. Their sons didn’t help with anything, from cooking food to their daily chores. Neither of them was paying allowance to the parents and hence, the aged couple approached the court,” said Wasim Abbasi, lawyer of the parents.
The court, in 2013, ruled that the sons would have to give their parents Rs. 1,800 monthly. They had mutually agreed to pay the amount. However, Kanji, who stays with his parents, ignored the court’s direction. The parents approached the court and filed a recovery application in 2015.
“After the court’s intervention, one of the sons, Dahyabhai, started paying Rs. 1,800 monthly. But Kanji didn’t. The parents asked Kanji for his share many times, but as it didn’t yield any result, they approached the court again in 2015. Now, finally, their ordeal has ended as the court has not only slapped a fine of Rs. 49,000 but also awarded 1,545 days of jail to him,” Abbasi added.
The lawyer said that while announcing the judgment, the judge said that despite living under the same roof, the son has ignored his parents. Additionally, he has also ignored notices from the court and tried to avoid its orders in all possible ways.
For a society that is undergoing a turbulent change, even the most sacred of relationships has come under pressure. The share of the elderly in India living alone or only with a spouse increased from 9 per cent in 1992 to 19 per cent in 2006. The modernising forces of demographic change, growth-induced geographic mobility and a sense of individualism, have transformed society within a span of one generation.
First, growing life expectancy and lower fertility rates mean an increasing share of elderly in the population, putting additional pressure on a smaller number of children. Since 1991, the number of households has grown faster than the population. Nuclear families now constitute 70 per cent of all households.
Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007
- The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 makes it a legal obligation for children to provide for their elderly parents
- Senior citizens (over 60 years of age) who cannot maintain themselves from their own earning or out of the property owned by them, are entitled to make an application under the maintenance law
- The special tribunal can grant maintenance of up to Rs 10,000 to the maintenance claim
- Senior citizens who do not have children can claim maintenance form an adult relative who is in possession of their property or will inherit the property after their death
- Adult children or grandchildren (irrespective of gender) are liable to pay maintenance
The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 has provisions that protect parents (and elderly persons) who have signed away their property or assets to a person so that they would be taken care of but are then left un-attended or mistreated.
If a senior citizen signs an agreement after 2007 to transfer his/her share in the property on the condition that their basic needs would be taken care of, but the person refuses to do so, then a maintenance tribunal can quash the agreement.
But when financial needs are met, and social ones remain, the bite of law is limited. Isolation and loneliness among the elderly is rising. As per a survey in September by the Indian Express, half the elderly felt sad and neglected, 36 per cent felt they were a burden to the family. One in every five people will be above the age of 60 by 2050. As the trends of smaller families and reductions in the cost of mobility continue, it is our values that will determine what the future looks like.
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