Kerala High Court: In a matter, wherein a senior citizen has approached the Court with her grievance with respect to her son, Murali Purushothaman, J., expressed that,
“When the Senior Citizen or parent who has earnings makes an application to the Maintenance Tribunal contending that her right to earning is obstructed by the son who has statutory obligation to maintain the parent, the Maintenance Tribunal has to ensure that the Senior Citizen or parent is able to maintain herself from her earnings.”
“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the biggest honours.”
Question for Consideration
If the parent is able to maintain herself from her own earnings, but the son has obstructed the parent to have access to her earning, can the Maintenance Tribunal constituted under the Senior Citizens Act direct the son not to obstruct the parent from taking the earnings and to create a peaceful living atmosphere for her in the residence?
Petitioner, a senior citizen was the wife of K.V. Eapen who had executed Will, whereby life interest was created in favour of the petitioner in respect of A schedule properties in the Will and after her death, the property was to devolve absolutely in favour of their son, the 4th respondent.
As per the Will, the petitioner can enjoy A schedule properties with absolute freedom including the right to collect and take all income and to reside in the house ad libitum.
Later, the Petitioner preferred an application before the Maintenance Tribunal under the Senior Citizens Act against the 4th respondent son and the 5th respondent daughter in law, alleging that they were not maintaining her and were not permitting her and her mother-in-law to stay in the house peacefully and to enjoy or collect usufructs from the property covered by the Will.
Reliefs sought before the Maintenance Tribunal:
(i) to ensure a peaceful living for her and her mother-in-law in the house,
(ii) the right to take usufructs from the property,
(iii) the right to sell the agricultural products yielded during the lifetime of her husband,
(iv) protection for life from son and daughter in law.
Maintenance Tribunal directed respondents 4 and 5:
i) not to obstruct the petitioner from taking usufructs from the property
(ii) to create a peaceful living atmosphere for the petitioner in the house, and
(iii) not to cause any harm to the petitioner.
Petitioner contended that the Maintenance Tribunal did not take any steps to enforce the above-said order, hence the present petition was filed.
Analysis, Law and Decision
A senior citizen including a parent who is unable to maintain himself from his own earning or out of the property owned by him alone is entitled to maintain an application under Section 5.
High Court expressed that, when a Senior Citizen or parent who has earning makes an application to the Maintenance Tribunal contending that her right to earning is obstructed by the son who has statutory obligation to maintain the parent, the Maintenance Tribunal has to ensure that the senior citizen or parent is able to maintain herself from her earnings.
Power of the Maintenance Tribunal under the Senior Citizens Act is not circumscribed to mere ordering of monthly allowance for maintenance of senior citizen where the relative or children neglect or refuses to maintain the senior citizen or parent, but to ensure maintenance from own earnings to lead a dignified life.
In the present case as well, the directions of the Maintenance tribunal are to remove the incapacity of the petitioner to maintain herself, so that she is not left destitute, but leads a normal dignified life.
The three directions passed by the Maintenance Tribunal, were in furtherance of the purpose of the Act, to ensure that the petitioner maintains herself out of her own earnings to live a normal life with peace, security and dignity.
The Bench added that respondents 4 and 5 cannot just walk away from the moral and statutory obligation to maintain the petitioner. They cannot be permitted to take advantage of their own wrong.
The power of the Maintenance Tribunal under the Senior Citizens Act is not circumscribed to ordering of monthly allowance to be paid in monetary terms for maintenance of senior citizen, but also to ensure maintenance from his own earnings if any, to lead a dignified life.
The Court directed the District Magistrate to take necessary steps to enforce the Maintenance Tribunal’s order within a period of three months. Further, the Bench added that the District Magistrate shall before taking steps to enforce the order make an attempt to see whether the matter can be amicably settled between the petitioner and her son and daughter in law so that they all live in comfort.
In view of the above, the petition was allowed. [Leelamma Eapen v. District Magistrate, 2022 SCC OnLine Ker 1560, decided on 28-3-2022]
Advocates before the Court:
For the Petitioner:
BY ADV SRI.K.M.VARGHESE
For the Respondents:
BY ADV MS.BEA MARY BENNY-R4,5