Directions issued to safeguard the Rights of the Elderly
Dr Ashwani Kumar Vs Union of India & Ors
WRIT PETITION (C) No. 193 OF 2016
About/from the judgment:
The Supreme Court today issued a number of directions on the issue of rights of the elderly under Article 21, in a petition filed by former Law Minister Dr. Ashwani Kumar.
The Bench of Justices Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta was of the view that it is pertinent to issue some initial directions to enable recognition and enforcement of rights of the elderly.
The Court has directed the Government of India to collect and collate data regarding old age homes as well as information on medical facilities and geriatric care from all the States and Union Territories.
The government has also been entrusted with the responsibility of publicizing the provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (MWP Act) to ensure that senior citizens are made aware of their Constitutional and statutory rights.
While directing the Centre to exercise its right to issue directions to the States to enforce the provisions of the MWP Act, the Court also noted that there was a need to look into the schemes concerning grant of pension based on the “availability of funds”. The directions issued by the Court are:
1) The Union of India will obtain the necessary information from all the State Governments and the Union Territories about the number of old age homes in each district of the country and file a Status Report in this regard.
2) The Union of India will also obtain from all the State Governments the medical facilities and geriatric care facilities that are available to senior citizens in each district and file a Status Report in this regard.
3) On the basis of the information gathered by the Union of India as detailed in the Status Reports, a plan of action should be prepared for giving publicity to the provisions of the MWP Act and making senior citizens aware of the provisions of the said Act and the constitutional and statutory rights of senior citizens.
4) Section 30 of the MWP Act enables the Government of India to issue appropriate directions to the State Governments to carry out and execute the provisions of the MWP Act. The Central Government must exercise its power in this regard and issue appropriate directions to the State Governments for the effective implementation of the provisions of the MWP Act. Alongside this, the Central Government must, in terms of Section 31 of the MWP Act, conduct a review for the purposes of monitoring the progress in the implementation of the MWP Act by the State Governments.
5) Some of the schemes referred to hereinabove are comparatively dated. It is high time that the Government of India has a relook at these schemes and perhaps overhaul them with a view to bring about convergence and avoid multiplicity. In particular, the Government of India and the State Governments must revisit the grant of pension to the elderly so that it is more realistic. Of course, this would depend upon the availability of finances and the economic capacity of the Government of India and the State Governments.
The writ petition was filed by former Law Minister Dr. Ashwani Kumar seeking enforcement of rights of the elderly under Article 21, specifically seeking relief in the areas of pension, shelter, medical and geriatric care, as well as the effective implementation of the MWP Act.
The judgment authored by Justice Lokur notes that while the Constitution of India has specific provisions for welfare of workers, women and children, there is no specific provision for the elderly. To address this, the Court observed,
“Fortunately, our Constitution is organic and this Court is forward looking. This combination has resulted in pathbreaking developments in law, particularly in the sphere of social justice which has been given tremendous importance and significance in a variety of decisions rendered by this Court over the years. The present petition is one such opportunity presented before this Court to recognise and enforce the rights of elderly persons.”
The Court has directed the Additional Solicitor General for India to file a status report with respect to the directions issued on Thursday by January 31, 2019. The matter will be listed for further hearing after the status report is received.
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