August 22, 2010

INDIA: Seniors with judicial knowledge must get broader role, says former SC judge

PUNE, Maharashtra / The Times of India /  August 22, 2010

Former Supreme Court judge B N Srikrishna on Saturday said that law for senior citizens will be a disaster if the people with judicial knowledge are not given decision-making positions.

Srikrishna was speaking at a workshop titled The awareness of the maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens Act', organised by a city-based college on Saturday. Veteran sociologist Sharadchandra Gokhale shared the dais.

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, accords prime responsibility for maintenance of parents on their children, grandchildren and even relatives who may possibly inherit property from them. It also calls upon the state to provide facilities for poor and needy old people. The states are also given the power to set up tribunals where issues of maintenance for senior citizens can be addressed.

Srikrishna said the state officials can head these tribunals. But not all of them have adequate knowledge of law. Their inadequacy may affect their decision and ultimately the appellants may suffer. Besides, civil courts have no jurisdiction in any matter connected with this Act, so the pressure on high courts will increase. It will be more trouble for senior citizens to visit the high court a number of times, away from their homes in villages. So, the need for people with judicial knowledge be given decision-making positions in the tribunal.

Srikrishna also pointed out some convoluted aspects of the Act. "More studied details should be provided so that implementation becomes easy. The law highlights a term normal life' for senior citizens. What dose a normal life' mean should be explained. Objective details about such concepts should be provided in the law, otherwise law will lead to more confusion. It will be a disaster," he said.

Srikrishna also suggested special welfare programmes at the state level for security of senior citizens. "It is also important in what way and with which spirit the law is getting implemented. After all, if the people are not made aware about their responsibility towards senior citizens, the law will not serve any purpose."

Sharadchandra Gokhale said, "Though there are more nuclear families these days, I don't think it is a problem as far as communication between family members is good. If coordination is good, nuclear families are not a threat to the society." Gokhale, however, added that more awareness is needed about problems being faced by senior citizens. With good intra-family communication, this awareness could spread faster.

The post-inauguration session focused on role of police in operationalising the law. Former DGP Jayant Umranikar said the law will not prove sensible if it is not implemented properly. "There should be a different implementing agency for this law. The police are already over burdened with implementation of various laws. If one more law is given for them to implement, it will not be a very sensible decision."

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