Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ. issued certain directions for enforcing elderly people’s rights under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Court was considering a petition filed for recognition and enforcement of elderly people’s rights under Article 21. The petitioner prayed relief with respect to four issues: (i) Pension of the elderly; (ii) Shelter for the elderly; (iii) Geriatric care and medical facilities for the elderly (iv) Effective implementation of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (‘MWP Act’).
After discussing all the issues, the Court was of the opinion that this was perhaps first such petition on the subject. It had stated that right to life provided under Article 21 must be given expansive meaning. The Court focused on three rights articulated by the petitioner: (a) right to live with dignity; (b) right to shelter; (c) right to health. the Court also found favour with petitioner’s alternative submission that even if constitutional rights are nor enforceable due to difficulties in “economic budgeting”, even then such rights of elderly people are protected under MWP Act which is a statutory law and the Government cannot make excuse of lack of finances in implementing the law that it had framed. The Court also considered the submissions made by the respondents including Union of India and was satisfied with their efforts in the matter.
While complementing the parties to the petition for their spirited support of the rights of the elderly, the Court issued certain directions till the time a finality is attained in the matter. The directions include:
(i) Union of India to file a status report on the number of old age homes, medical facilities and geriatric care facilities in the country.
(ii) Making senior citizens aware of their rights.
(iii) Effective implementation of provisions of MWP Act, 2007
(iv) Union and State Governments must revisit grant of pension to the elderly so that it is more realistic.
Finally, the Court directed Union of India to file the status report on or before 31-01-2019. the matter will be listed for further hearing after receipt of status report. [Ashwani Kumar v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2804, decided on 13-12-2018]