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Jurisdiction of civil courts needed to help sr citizens'
March, 14th 2012

Lawyers participating in a seminar on maintenance of senior citizens on Tuesday stated that cases filed under the law to administer maintenance of senior citizens should come in the jurisdiction of civil courts instead of sub-divisional magistrates.

This will help create awareness among public regarding the Supreme Court ruling of 2007 that led to framing of the law, they said. "Due to a lack of awareness, there have been just two cases lodged by senior citizens under the maintenance law in the city," said Rajendra Anbhule, advocate in Bombay High Court.

The seminar was organized by the International Longevity Centre - India with the support of National Institute of Social Defence, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and in collaboration with Bharati Vidyapeeth University's New Law College.

Under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, children are obligated to maintain and provide for their parents and senior citizens. Maintenance includes providing food, shelter, medical attendance and clothing.

Anbhule attributed several reasons for the law's lack of success. He said, "Cases filed under this Act (Section 17) prohibit advocates to intervene. Absolute power is given to sub-divisional magistrates (revenue officers), who have little knowledge about the law. These executive officers have little training in understanding the sensitivity of the issue involved. Thirdly, this duty overburdens the sub-divisional magistrates. And lastly, due to the exclusion of civil courts, there is little awareness."

Mukund Sarda, dean of Law faculty, Bharati Vidyapeeth University, said, "If cases filed under the Act are brought in the jurisdiction of civil courts, it would create awareness. For example people are aware of consumer courts due to involvement of civil courts. The media publishes consumer courts' orders and as a result, there is more awareness."

Anil Pawar, resident deputy collector, Pune, said that they have been actively publicizing the Act by going to senior citizens' associations, old age homes and holding seminars. But, more needed to be done, he said.

Pramod Phadnis, social welfare inspector, however, claimed that special division officers have been given sufficient training to understand the sensitivities of the cases. He added that sub-divisional magistrates also counseled parents and senior citizens regarding future plan of action and how family disputes can be settled with minimum fuss. Thus, the number of cases officially lodged has been low.

Chidanand Pathak, director of International Longevity Centre, and a senior citizen himself, blamed societal norms and restrictions for the low number of cases filed. He said, "A parent always thinks the best for his child. He thinks that there will be a social stigma attached to his children forever if they are involved in a case. This is the primary reason for the low numbers."

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