Major push for Senior Citizen Reforms as Bombay High Court decides on PIL
Mohit Arora, Mumbai
The Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Maharashtra State Government to widely publicise substantial provisions of Senior Citizen Act, 2007. It also ordered Government to publicise the appointment of presiding officers of the Tribunal, their designation, their addresses and telephone numbers periodically once in three months.
The order was pronounced by a two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice, Mohit Shah along with Justice S.J. Kathawalla of Bombay High Court.
The bench suggested the use of electronic media, television, newspapers and documentary films to propagate the provisions of the Act.
The direction came through while disposing the Public Interest Litigation on non-implementation of provisions of the Senior Citizen Act. The PIL was filed on 22nd June, 2010.
The Senior Citizen Act makes it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents, by monthly allowance. It also provides simple, speedy and inexpensive mechanism for the protection of life and property of the older persons. After being passed by the Parliament, the act received assent of the President of India on December 29, 2007. The Parliament had instructed the states to implement the act within six months but not many states, including Maharashtra had obliged.
A Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation was undertaken by the Bombay High Court acting on a report published in Maharashtra Times in 2010.
The report significantly highlighted the plight of senior citizens in seeking qualitive compensation, judicial redressal and blatant ignorance of the state government in implementing the provisions of the act.
It cited the case of an 80-year-old man, suffering from Alzheimer’s, who was cheated to the tune of Rs. 1 crore by his son. Due to the lack of dedicated implementation of Senior Citizens Act, the victim’s case was taken up as a ‘normal legal matter’ and even after two years of legal tussle no justice was meted out to him. Eventually, the man died without justice. The news report stated the man would have received due compensation had the act been effectively implemented.
Amicus Curiae, Mr. Floyd Gracias, welcomed the order saying, “The Petition substantially compelled the state to set up Tribunals and implement the act since there was no previous exclusive redressal authority for senior citizens.”
An affidavit was filed on December 20, 2010 by J N Rathod, Deputy Secretary, Social Justice and Special Assistance Department in response to the Court notice. It stated that the State government is implementing provisions of the Act by setting up Tribunals for each sub-division of District and has appointed the concerned Sub-Divisional Officer for the purpose of adjudicating and deciding upon the claim for maintenance.
The affidavit further pointed out that the State Government has also constituted Appellate Tribunal in each District and appointed the concerned District Collector to be the presiding officer for the said Appellate Tribunal for hearing appeals under the said Act.
Mr. Sudhir Shah, petitioner in one of the cases filed under the Act, said, “The court decision is not only empowering but also protects the rights of senior citizens in seeking rightful compensation and providing inexpensive and speedy justice effectively.”
The Court acknowledged the efforts undertaken by the state machinery in setting up a system for implementation of the Act.
“It brings respite for many such elderly victims. The implementation of the act will provide financial assistance to those senior citizens who live alone. The act by itself will be a powerful tool, which they can use to fight injustice. It is definitely a way forward.”, added Mr. Gracias.
Source: Senior Citizen Act