Defending elders

The court’s heart is in the right place as it goes all out in favour of senior citizens in distress over disputes relating to their rights for protection of life and property against transgression by their children and other close relatives. This is evident from a large number of court verdicts that have supported the elderly in matters of conflict between them and their relatives across the country in the past decade. Upholding the spirit of this sentiment is the latest ruling of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, restoring the powers of eviction to maintenance tribunals set up under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act. The verdict is significant as it departs from an earlier judgment of January this year that struck down some clauses of the Punjab Action Plan, 2014, which lays down the procedure for the eviction of a person on orders of a District Magistrate from the property of a senior citizen.

Considering the plight of senior citizens — rendered infirm with age and often suffering from lack of income — involved in long-drawn-out litigation with their children who ill-treat them, this Act was enforced in 2007. It enjoins upon the children to provide basic amenities and take care of their elders. It also takes cognisance of another sad reality: old parents being neglected, harassed, physically abused or even forced out of the house once they transfer their property and assets to their children or other relatives (if childless), with the hope of being looked after in their twilight years.

The law has been rightly amended to give them protection by deeming such a deed as having been made by fraud, coercion or undue influence if they are abused. Empowering the executive to quash the agreement in such cases and restore the property to the anguished seniors has an added benefit. It saves them the trouble of hiring costly lawyers and moving overburdened courts. That the mistreated elderly have the right to take back their transferred property must be widely publicised. It will reduce instances of parental abuse.

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