Javed Rafi ( javed.[email protected] )
5th year, BA.LLB.(Hons.), Jamia Millia Islamia
“When we’re young we have faith in what is seen, but when we’re old we know that what is seen is traced in air and built on water.”
With help of their sticks, taking short steps while walking, white hair and wrinkles, homeless and helpless, seeking assistance on steps, some are suffering from the disease, and others resembling dead body. To whom do they belong? The answer to this is of deep concern because they are the nurturers of the society. They have built the personality of the young generation so that in future they could keep building the society in the same way. Now they are retired and there is no one to look after them.
Old age is an indispensable stage of life that a human being cannot escape unless he has an untimely death. Today the old age rights issue is ubiquitous. Childhood and old age are natural reliant conditions of life where children depend on parents and vice-versa.
With fast changing socio-economic scenario, industrialization, rapid urbanization, higher aspirations among the youth and overtly self-centered lifestyles, roots of traditional joint family system have been eroding very fast. In urban areas of the country traditional joint family system has become thing of the past. In such changing situations, majority of older persons, who have passed most part of their life with their joint/extended families are on the verge of isolation or marginalization in old age. At this age, when they need family support the most, they have to live on their own. Even basic needs & rights of many of them are not addressed. Social marginalization, loneliness, isolation and even negligence in old age lead to violation of Human Rights of Older Persons.
Laws in India regarding aged people’s rights
Nowadays, the parents are becoming burdensome for their child whenever they lose their strength to work and earn, that is why laws in all sphere have come to restore the pre-existing value based principles to protect the interest of old persons.
I. Constitutional provision:
- Article 41 – Right to work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases: The State shall, within the limits of economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want.
II. Criminal Procedural Code, 1973:
- Section 125(1) makes it incumbent for a person having sufficient means to maintain his father or mother who is unable to maintain himself or herself and on getting proof of neglect or refusal, may be ordered by a first class magistrate to make a monthly allowance. It is applicable to all, irrespective of their religious faith and religious persuasions, and includes adoptive parents. This section has been interpreted by the Supreme Court in its ruling so as to make daughters and sons, married or unmarried, equally responsible to maintain their parents.
III. Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956:
- Section 20 – This section talks about obligation of sons and daughters to maintain their aged or infirm parents. Under old Hindu law, “parent” did not include a stepparent. Explanation to S.20, Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act now includes a childless stepmother in the expression ‘parent’. The childless stepfather is still excluded from the purview of the expression “parent”.
IV. Muslim Law:
- Children have a duty to maintain their aged parents even under the Muslim law. According to Mulla :
- Children in easy circumstances are bound to maintain their poor parents, although the latter may be able to earn something for themselves.
- A son though in strained circumstances is bound to maintain his mother, if the mother is poor, though she may not be infirm.
- A son, who though poor, is earning something, is bound to support his father who earns nothing.
According to Tyabji, parents and grandparents in indigent circumstances are entitled, under Hanafi law, to maintenance from their children and grandchildren who have the means, even if they are able to earn their livelihood. Both sons and daughters have a duty to maintain their parents under the Muslim law. The obligation, however, is dependent on their having the means to do so.
V. Christian And Parsi Law:
The Christians and Parsis have no personal laws providing for maintenance for the parents. Parents who wish to seek maintenance have to apply under provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
- Under this Act, the maintenance can be claimed by:-
- A parent or grant-parent from one or more of his children which includes son, daughter but does not include a minor;
- A childless senior citizen from his relative who is a legal heir and is not a minor and is in possession of or would inherit his property after his death.
Ironically, in India older generations are not aware of their human rights due to high prevalence of illiteracy and lack of awareness. On the other hand, due to comparatively high physical as well as psychological vulnerability their cries for help remain within four-walls of the households, that is why only a few cases of violation of human rights of elderly come out in the open.