On July 12, the Karnataka High Court dismissed an appeal moved by two sons challenging the Deputy Commissioner’s order directing them to pay an amount of Rs 10,000 as maintenance to their 84-year-old mother under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act.
The court’s single-judge Justice Krishna S Dixit said 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. An argument to the contra falls foul of law & religion, to which the Petitioners belong.”
The court cited an ancient scripture “Taittiriya Upaniṣad,” wherein a guru gives the following parting message to their student – “May you be one for whom his mother is a Deva. May you be one for whom his father is a Deva. May you be one for whom a guest is a Deva. May you be one for whom his teacher is a Deva.”
The court further quotes a shloka from the Brahmanda Purana, which translates to, “To neglect the parents, particularly in their old age, when they become weak and dependent and to cause anguish, is a heinous act for which there is no atonement available.” The court further observes, “The virtuous idea is that one should respect & serve one’s parents, guests & gurus, before one worships the Almighty. This has been the tradition of this land since centuries.”
“This has been the tradition of this land since centuries. With no joy in heart, this Court observes that nowadays, a section of youngsters is failing to look after the aged & ailing parents and the number is swelling. This is not a happy development,” the court remarked.
On May 25, 2022, the Dy Commissioner increased the maintenance amount awarded by the Assistant Commissioner, through an order dated May 22, 2019, from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000. The petitioners challenged the Dy Commissioner’s order before the court, contending that the order is liable to be voided as the appellants cannot be worse off in their own appeal.
However, the court rejected the petitioner’s contentions and said, “such a general proposition obtaining in the realm of law of appeals is not invocable in cases arising from socio-welfare legislations like 2007 Act, which is enacted by the Parliament for protecting the interest of senior citizens who are in a hapless position.”
“Such a traditional norm that owes its origin to the jurisprudence of Colonial Era cannot be readily invoked to defeat the intent of the statute. It hardly needs to be stated that in effectuating the Parliamentary intent, the authorities are also stakeholders along with the parties to the lis,” the court added.
The petitioners also argued that they do possess enough means to pay the stipulated amount, however, the court rejected this contention as well. The court said, “the first Petitioner on being specifically asked, admitted in the open Court that he owns three shop premises and has been receiving Rs.10,000/- by way of monthly rent. The mother who too present in the Court along with daughters at once retorts that the rental income is far more than Rs.20,000/-. The Petitioners have not produced the rental agreements to demonstrate their assertion.”
“Added, they have suppressed their rental income from the authorities who have made the impugned orders. Such a culpable conduct of the Petitioners disentitles them to any relief the equitable jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution, the other provision namely Article 226 having been mindlessly employed in their pleadings,” the court added.
The petitioners further said that they are ready to maintain their mother, however, she should be directed to live with them. The petitioners further alleged that the aged mother was being manipulated by her daughters. However, the court that unwilling parents cannot be forced to reside with their children.
“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 the unwilling parents can be forced to reside with their children. Such a contention is incongruous and abhorrent to our culture & tradition, to say the least,” the court said.
“It is not that the daughters want any share in the family property. It is they who have been looking after the mother abandoned by the sons. 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,” the court added.
The petitioners also contended that the amount of Rs 10,000 is on the higher side. The court rejected this argument and said, “We are living in an age when bread is costlier than blood. Money is loosing its purchasing power; days are proving very costly; a sum of Rs.10,000/- by any measure can be said to be excess”
However, the court did not further revise the maintenance amount as there was no prayer for the same from the mother’s side. “However, this Court very reluctantly abstains from revising it upwardly, there being no such prayer from the side of mother,” the court said.
The court held that the petitioners’ writ petition was liable to be rejected as it was devoid of merits. The court further imposed a cost of Rs 5,000 which the two petitioners are liable to remit to their mother within 30 days, with an additional levy of Rs 100 per day in case of delay.