Karnataka High Court: While deliberating over the instant petition where sons of an aged ailing mother, knocked the doors of the High Court challenging an order to pay their mother monthly expense of Rs. 10,000; the Bench of Krishna S. Dixit, J.*, rejected the contention of the petitioners that they do not have any means to pay their mother a sum of Rs. 10,000. The Court stated that law, religion & custom mandate sons to look after their parents, and more particularly aged mother. Stating that the petitioners’ contention is a poor justification for not looking after the aged and ailing mother, especially when it is not their case that they are not able bodied or diseased, the Court opined that, if an able-bodied person is bound to maintain his dependent wife, there is no reason why such a rule should not apply when it comes to the case of a dependent mother. The Court “with no joy in their heart”, observed that nowadays, a section of youngsters is failing to look after the aged and ailing parents and the number is swelling. “This is not a happy development”.
Background and Contentions: The petitioners challenged the orders passed by Deputy Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner, whereby which the petitioners were directed to pay to their mother a monthly sum of Rs. 5,000/- each, which was later enhanced to Rs. 10,000/- by the Deputy Commissioner.
Aggrieved with the orders, it was contended that the petitioners being the appellants could not have been made worse off in their own appeal. It was further argued that they don’t have sufficient means to pay monthly maintenance to their mother.
The petitioners further stated that they are ready and willing to look after their mother and therefore, she should be asked to join their home, leaving the place of her daughters. The petitioners also contended that their mother has claimed maintenance only at the instigation of her daughters and thus the claim lacks bona fide.
Court’s Assessment: Perusing the contentions, the Court came down heavily on the petitioners.
The Court firstly addressed the petitioners’ contention that appellants cannot be worse off in their own appeal. The Court pointed out that such a general proposition in the realm of law of appeals is not invocable in cases arising from socio-welfare legislations like Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, which was enacted by the Parliament for protecting the interest of senior citizens who are in a wretched position.
Vis-à-vis the contentions regarding petitioners’ not being well off enough to maintain their mother, the Court took note of several religious scriptures like the Upanishads and Puranas which lay down a moral obligation on the sons to look after their parents especially if they are aged and ailing. The Court pointed out that virtuous idea is that one should respect and serve one’s parents, guests and gurus, before one worships God, has been the tradition since centuries.
The Court further pointed out that since the petitioners are able-bodied and healthy, therefore their contention that they have no means to look after their mother is a poor justification. The Court stated that such argument to the contrary falls foul of law and religion, to which the petitioners belong.
Furthermore, the Court rejected the petitioners’ “do not have the means” argument pointing out that one of the petitioners admitted that he owns three shop premises and has been receiving monthly rent. The Court also added that the petitioners have suppressed their rental income from the authorities who made the impugned orders. Such culpable conduct of the petitioners disentitles them to any relief in the equitable jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution.
Taking note of the petitioners’ “willingness” to look after their mother if she is directed to leave her daughters’ house stays with them, the Court stated that such a direction is neither legally sustainable nor factually desirable. Taking note of the mother’s fragile health, advanced age, illiteracy and weak eyesight, the Court stated that such an argument is inappropriate and abhorrent to Indian culture and tradition. “Law of marriage generally provides for restitution of conjugal rights qua the deserting spouse, is true. No law or ruling of the kind is cited at the Bar that unwilling parents can be forced to reside with their children”.
Furthermore, the Court observed that the petitioners did not present any material which shows that the mother is being manipulated by her daughters. In much contradiction to the petitioners’ attitude who abandoned their mother, the Court noted that it is daughters who have been looking after their mother. “But for them, she would have been on the streets. The gestures shown by the daughters merits a deep appreciation at the hands of this Court”.
Lastly, the Court noted that a sum of Rs. 10,000 falls short of the ‘living wages’ of an unskilled workman. To hold body and soul together, more than Rs. 10,000 is necessary. However, since the mother did not challenge amount of monthly maintenance, the Court reluctantly abstained from revising the amount upwards. The Court thus rejected the petitioners’ contention that Rs. 10,000 is much on the higher side. “We are living in an age when bread is costlier than blood. Money is losing its purchasing power; days are proving very costly”.
[Gopal v. Deputy Commissioner, 2023 SCC OnLine Kar 37, decided on 12-07-2023]
*Order by Justice Krishna S. Dixit
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For petitioners- K.R. Lingaraju, Advocate;
For respondents- Rashmi Patel, AGA for R1 and R2; K.S. Kartik Kiran advocate for Kapil Dixit, Advocate for R3.