Kerala High Court: Upholding the order of the Maintenance Tribunal* directing the children to provide “welfare measures” to a senior citizen who was the live in partner of their mother, the Court observed that, “It is open for the Tribunal to impose a liability for providing ‘welfare measures’ on whom the Tribunal deems fit that it can be imposed, based on the accepted relationship between the parties. Otherwise, the very purpose of the Act would be defeated.”
The petitioners’ contention was that the senior citizen was neither a parent nor adoptive/step father as he had married their mother when he already had a subsisting marriage. The relationship between them and the senior citizen did not fall within any of the definitions of ‘children’ or ‘parent’ or ‘relative’ and he cannot raise any claim against the petitioners. They were not liable as the Senior Citizen’s Act does not cast any liability upon them to maintain such senior citizen.
Rejecting the contention, the Bench of Muhamed Mustaque, J. observed that the Tribunal had passed the order in terms of Section 2(k)† for providing ‘welfare measures’ rather than invoking the provision for ‘maintenance’ under Section 2(b)‡. It held that the welfare measures can be imposed against any person, based on the accepted relationship between the parties involving mutual obligations for a considerable time though such persons may not have legal obligation to pay the maintenance. The maintenance, of course, can be ordered only against the persons mentioned as ‘children’ or ‘relative’ as defined under the Act. Though, there is no special provision for providing “welfare” to the senior citizen, the scheme of the Senior Citizens Act itself gives room for the Tribunal to protect the “welfare” of a senior citizen. The Court observed that the object of the Senior Citizens Act, is to protect and provide effective provisions for the maintenace and welfare of parents and senior citizens. The State has a duty in terms of Article 41 of the Constitution to take effective measures to secure the wellbeing of a citizen during his old age.
The Court concluded that the direction as ordered in the impugned order is only a direction to provide “welfare measures” and not maintenance and such measures can be imposed against any persons, whom the Tribunal deems fit in circumstances and for sufficient reasons, though, such persons would not come within the ambit of ‘children’ or ‘relative’ as defined under the Act. [Reju v. The Maintenance Tribunal, Writ Petition (C) No. 4981 of 2015, decided on March 18, 2015]
*Ed.: Maintenance Tribunal is constituted under Section 7 of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
†S. 2(k). “welfare” means provisions for food, health care, recreation centres and other amenities necessary for the senior citizens.”
‡S. 2(b). “maintenance” includes provision for food, clothing, residence and medical attendance and treatment.