Kochi, August 28: Citing the holy Bible, the Kerala High Court came to the help of an 80-year-old citizen, whose request for arrears of maintenance from his children, was turned down by a family court. The High Court was initially inclined to agree with the family court’s stance, since the 'Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007' and Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) also only spoke of granting maintenance prospectively.
Law evolves from tradition, culture and personal relations
But the High Court reconsidered their initial opinion, after considering that law itself evolves from tradition, culture and the personal relations formed through the same. “Is it a requirement that to claim maintenance there should be a positive law? We find the reasons recorded hereafter that, to claim past maintenance positive law is not a prerequisite … Law is nothing but principles that are implicit in the relationships formed privately through practices, traditions and culture,” the Court pointed out.
In a country where social order is defined by the practice of the community or that of one’s denomination and adherence to long-standing religious norms, the Court opined that it “will have to recognize those norms and precepts creating such relationships in that social order.”
The Holy Bible says: ‘Honor your father and mother’
Incidentally, the bench then decided to examine what the Bible, which governs the Christian faith of the senior citizen before the Court, says. “The Holy Bible says: ‘Honor your father and mother’…”, the Court observed.
Everyone has a right to an adequate standard of living
The bench further noted that Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) declares that everyone has a right to an adequate standard of living, in the event of sickness, disability, old age, etc.
It pointed out that Article 41 of the Indian Constitution also says, “We cannot ignore the principles in a social order creating an obligation on the children to maintain their parents during old age”.
The Court went on to further point out that just because a law, like the 2007 Maintenance of Senior Citizens Act, entitled a senior citizen to claim maintenance prospectively, it did not mean that the law “negates” claims for past maintenance.
His patience for his children cannot be cited to deny his claim for maintenance
Then the court stated that the petitioner, being a man with self-respect, may have restrained himself from approaching the courts earlier in the hope that his children would respect his needs. His patience for his children cannot be cited to deny his claim for maintenance, the court added.
“Even without any positive aid of law the court could have recognised the right of the elderly irrespective of the religion to claim the past maintenance and future maintenance. Merely for the reason that the legislation had only provided measures for the award of prospective maintenance, that cannot result in denial of the claim for past maintenance...the court ruled.
Asked family court to consider the matter on merits
Hence, the High Court set aside the family court’s earlier decision to reject the senior citizen’s plea and asked the family court to consider the matter on merits. All the parties have now been asked to appear before the family court on September 12 and the family court was directed to decide on the case within two months.