A Socio-Legal Analysis of Elder Care Laws in India

Deblina Dey


Care for older persons in India is considered to be the prerogative
of the family, particularly the adult children. The legal and policy
discourse reiterates this notion as well. In a country that glorifies the
notion of filial piety, one finds a rising number of instances of parental
neglect and abuse over the last decade. Against this background, it
is important to revisit the existing laws, especially the Maintenance
and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (2007) which aims to
provide relief to aggrieved parents and senior citizens. In this Article,
I analyze the relevant laws and discuss the nature of complaints
lodged by elderly parents at the Maintenance Tribunal in Kolkata
(India). The nature of intergenerational disputes and the way they
are dealt with by the Tribunal highlight the law’s inability to imagine
a world of needs beyond the economic needs of survival. Despite a
few positive measures, the law presently falls short of interpreting the
social ‘needs’ of belongingness, retaining authority and a position of
importance in the family, a set of needs that often remain unspoken
and are therefore disregarded by the law’s agent (the Tribunal judge
in this case). I argue that in the process of translating the ‘needs’ of
older persons into ‘rights’ through the application of the law, justice
is disserved.

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