New Delhi, April 8
The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre’s response to a PIL by former Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar for setting up old age homes and exclusive hospitals for the rising population of senior citizens in each of the 622 districts in the country.
Arguing before a Bench headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Kumar pleaded that this was necessary as most of the old people were living in poverty — without any roof over their head or proper clothes and food. They were also increasingly becoming victims of abuse and violence.
Kumar acknowledged that the Centre had put in place several laws and schemes, such as the National Policy on Older Persons 1999, the old age pension scheme 1995, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 and the Integrated Programme for Older Persons. The government also announced a health care policy in 2010-11.
But none of these was being implemented properly or many had become virtually defunct, he contended.
The government was duty-bound to ensure a life of dignity to such people under Articles 21 and 41 of the Constitution. For this, it should establish adequate number of old age homes in each district and set up full-time maintenance tribunals to run these. Geriatric Centres should be set up in each district.
There was a need for an apex body comprising representatives of the Centre and state governments to finalise an action programme for removing the bottlenecks in achieving the Constitutional mandate.
The Supreme Court Bench, which included Justices R. Banumathi and UU Lalit, appointed NGO Helpage India as the amicus curiae to assist the court in the case. It also asked the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) to submit a report on the laws meant for the elderly and the status of implementation of these.
Kumar has named all the 35 states and Union Territories as respondents, besides the Centre, but the Supreme Court said it would involve them in the case at a later stage, if necessary. Initially, the court was reluctant to entertain the petition, asking Kumar to approach the government first.
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