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Ensuring Dignity and Rights : A Comprehensive Analysis of Elderly Rights in India

Authored by Sreejayaa Rajguru, 1st year law student at Amity University, Noida

An old man walking on an empty village street with the help of a walking stick

“Moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” 
Hubert Humphrey 


The Taittiriya Upanishad's "Matru Devo Bhava" and "Pitru Devo Bhav" in Sanskrit have roots in the Vedic period of ancient India. which states that the parents were assigned to an extremely high standing by bestowing upon them the title of living deities. These were taken into consideration as a philosophical guide on ethics and morality for the graduates of Gurukuls. The inevitable stage of aging parents comes with the natural life cycle that every human has. Being must go through. It presents a number of difficulties as well as new ways of thinking and living patterns that start to clash with the next generation. This generational divide increases their likelihood of suffering abuse and neglect. Proper food and medication are withheld from them by the individuals from their own families. Occasionally, they are ejected after being made to sign the property documents even disowned by their own children, of their own homes. This results in verbal, and physical, and they are abused financially and psychologically, which puts them in a very vulnerable position. This circumstance is best understood via the prism of routine. The victimization activity theory states that the victim's precarious situation leaves them open to abuse. Numerous international documents and certain foreign countries' national laws make use  of various terms such as "third age," "elderly," "the aged," "older persons," and "seniors" to  denote "elderly citizens." 

Age-related And Senior Citizens' Problems

There were 703 million adults 65 and older in the world in 2019. East and Southeast Asia had the highest concentration of elderly individuals with an estimated of 261 million, with estimates of over 200 million coming from North America and Europe. The number of elderly people worldwide will increase during the next three decades, or until 2050, to be expected to increase by more than two times, to over 1.5 billion people. (UNDP, n.d.)Even so, aging is the normal stage of life, which presents a plethora of issues for those who have grown senior. An examination of the main issues facing the elderly in light of the results from a number of studies is described below: 

  1. Economic Issues: With regard to economic issues, they are fundamental to all the  additional issues that older people experience. When utilizing superannuation, an  individual must leave the service, which not only leads to a decline in social standing and employment but also a significant decline in his salary. The majority of senior citizens deal with serious financial issues, including making elderly people less secure financially. 

  2. Physiological Issues: As people age, they encounter a range of anatomical and physiological modifications. Numerous psychological, behavioral, and attitude changes result from these alterations in them. As a result, individuals must endure a variety of physiological issues, including a decline in physical stamina and strength, which  intensifies with age. 

  3. Housing-related Issues: Senior housing should not only accommodate their established lifestyle of good health, but also conditions of deteriorating health and illness that are frequently linked to later life, such as failing eyesight or hearing, sluggishness and unsure gait, waning energy, and more severe disabilities like blindness and forgetfulness. Based on this trend, the majority of older citizens' housing options might be deemed inappropriate and unfit for their needs. The issue of "where to live peacefully" has been a  concern for both the sizable numbers of elderly men and widows. 

  4. The Issue of Elder Abuse: Any maltreatment of an elderly person is commonly referred to as an elder abuse individual. "Infliction of physical, emotional, or psychological harm on an older adult" is what it refers to. About 81% of senior adults report having experienced verbal abuse, compared to 53% of them who experience neglect, which is followed by physical abuse (23%) and material abuse (37%). The Act of 2007 stipulates that the definition of "abuse" is as follows: physical violence, verbal, emotional, and financial abuse, as well as neglect and desertion resulting in physical or emotional pain, abuse, or harm. 

Provisions To Protect Elderly People In India  

In India, laws and constitutional protections were passed to safeguard the elderly. The basic and  fundamental rights of the aged were ignited in order to safeguard and advance their interests. For example, elderly individuals shouldn't be perceived as unproductive to society only because a  small percentage of them might require more care than other individuals. Among the elderly's fundamental rights are the following: the right to security, the right entitlement to health care,  entitlement to a livable wage, entitlement to be free from discrimination, to involvement, and the freedom from harsh, inhuman, or degrading treatment therapy. The guiding principles offer a  wide range of options for addressing old age. A few of the guiding ideas are: 

(1) Seniors should be able to choose when to work and have the option to depart from the workforce

When the Supreme Court discussed the critical necessity to provide older people with respite, it also noted that everyone, whether a worker or a monarch, might benefit from old age; socialism aimed to provide financial stability for individuals who contributed all they could to society doing at a time when their physical and mental health was better. When life falls apart the government should guarantee its population access to healthcare, a respectable level of living,  and assistance, liberty from dread, liberty from want, and delightful leisure. 

In Article 41, the term "public assistance" has been used in relation to instances of illness, old age, unemployment, and disability, and not in relation to the right to work, which is covered in that article's first section. Nonetheless, these clauses are found in Chapter IV, i.e. Directive Principles of the Constitution of India. Article 37 states that any legal authority does not uphold the Directive Principles of the  Constitution. However, the Directive Principle imposes the state with a positive obligation, that is, what it ought to perform. The Guidelines recognized to be essential to the nation's and state's governments have been obligated to use them while drafting legislation, the courts cannot impose a directive principle since it doesn't confer any legitimate rights on any person. The fact that the state has not passed a single Act is really regrettable. This has a direct bearing on senior citizens. 

The judiciary has broadened the interpretation of Article 21 to encompass the right to a  pollution-free and healthy environment. The entitlement to healthcare and medical services.  The judiciary has broadened the interpretation of Article 21 to encompass the right to a  pollution-free and healthy environment, as well as the right to health and medical care. The entitlement to sustenance and social protection, as well as the entitlement to exist with inherent worth as a human being. The rights incorporated into Article 21 are derived from the Directive  Principles of State Policy. For example, the state must offer housing sites to those who are homeless as part of their rights to housing and shelter. The parameters specified in the Preamble and the notion of a Welfare State are the governing ideals of the state to foster prosperity and well-being among individuals. Ensuring security and maintaining a functional social order by promoting Social justice and equitable distribution of wealth and power the state shall endeavor to decrease disparities. The goal of income endeavor is to eradicate disparities in social standing and ensure the provision of necessary amenities. 

Additional Governmental Policies And Programs

The government's slogan is to safeguard the elderly by encouraging their health, and well-being, and enabling them to be self-sufficient. Several policies are now accessible.

  1. The Union Government of India has implemented the National Policy for Older Persons. The National policy for older adults was implemented in 1999 to foster the well-being and welfare of elderly individuals. Ensuring safety, providing social security, and offering care. This regulation categorizes those aged 60 and above as elderly. The main objective is to promote the responsibility of families in caring for their parents and grandparents. Additionally, this policy offers resources to voluntary organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to safeguard the dignity of vulnerable elderly individuals in society. This program additionally guarantees financial stability, healthcare, nutrition, shelter, education, welfare, and the protection of life and property. 

  2. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has established the National Council for Older Persons (NCOP) with the primary goals of advising the government on appropriate policies, providing feedback on their implementation, initiating special programs, establishing grievance cells, and securing concessions, rebates, and discounts for older individuals in both government and corporate sectors. Additionally, the NCOP  aims to establish old age homes. 

  3. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment offers the Integrated Program for  Older Persons, which gives financial assistance of around 90% of the project cost to  NGOs. This funding is intended for the establishment of old-age homes, centers, and mobile Medicare units. These facilities are also provided to the Government Panchayathi raj, institutions, and Local Bodies. These institutions will provide services such as establishing Day Care centers, raising awareness about Alzheimer's and Dementia,  operating Physiotherapy clinics, offering Helplines and Counseling centers, conducting  Sensitizing programs, promoting awareness, and facilitating the formation of senior citizen associations.  

Personal Laws 

The ethical obligation to support one's parents is universally acknowledged. However, in terms of legal matters, the position and scope of such obligation differ from one society to another. 

A. The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956, includes Section 20, which outlines the legal requirement for providing financial support to parents under Hindu personal law.  This legislation is the inaugural personal law statute in India. This mandates that children are responsible for supporting their parents. The wording of the text indicates that  According to this provision, the responsibility to support parents is not limited to boys alone; females also have an equal commitment to parents. It is crucial to emphasize that only parents who lack the financial means to sustain individuals,  regardless of the origin, have the right to request financial support according to the provisions of this legislation. 

B. Islamic Law

According to Islamic law, children are obligated to provide financial support for their elderly parents. Based on Mulla (a Muslim honorific given to a scholar or religious leader):  Children who come from privileged backgrounds are inevitably  obligated to Support their impoverished parents, even if the parents are capable of earning some income. If the mother is destitute, the individual is obligated to support her, even if she is not physically weak, but is experiencing difficult circumstances. A son, despite his financial limitations, should provide for his father who is unable to make any income. 

According to Islamic law, it is the responsibility of both sons and daughters to provide financial support for their parents. However, the commitment is contingent upon their possessing the  necessary resources to fulfill it. 

C. Christian and Parsi Law: Christians and Parsis do not have personal laws that address the issue of upkeep for individual Guardians. To request financial support, parents must apply in accordance with the regulations outlined in the Criminal Procedure. 


The Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr. P.C) is a legal document that outlines the procedures and rules to be followed in criminal cases. The Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr. P.C) of 1973 is a statute that applies to individuals of all religious and communal backgrounds, ensuring a secular approach for female offspring.  

Even married daughters are obligated to financially support their parents. The allocation for the upkeep of the provision for the presence of parents during legal proceedings was initially included in Section 125(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In 1973, according to the code, if an individual with adequate resources fails or refuses to support their parent or if a parent is incapable of self-sufficiency, a Magistrate of the highest rank has the authority to take action upon providing evidence of such negligence or upon refusal, the court may direct the individual to provide a monthly stipend for the support and care of their father or mother, at a certain amount. The monthly fee shall be determined by the magistrate and paid to the designated individual as determined by the magistrate periodically. 


Currently, the senior population in India ranks as the second largest globally. The traditional mores and principles of Indian society emphasized the need to demonstrate reverence and offer assistance to the elderly. The family typically provided care for their elderly relatives.  Nevertheless, contemporary society is observing a gradual yet unmistakable decline in the joint family structure, leading to a significant proportion of parents no longer being financially supported by their offspring, which was once the customary social norm. As a result, the older generation is currently vulnerable to emotional neglect and a lack of both physical and financial assistance. In the absence of sufficient social security, they are encountering numerous challenges. Maintenance and welfare provisions hold a prominent position in India. 

The Delhi High Court has determined that the Tribunal established under the Act did not adhere  to the fundamental principles of a fair trial. The court has advised the government to ensure that  the Tribunal is properly constituted before proceeding. The competency of the members should  

be verified to ensure that they possess not only fundamental proficiency in legal principles is essential, as well as a fundamental understanding of the concepts of due process and courtroom proceedings. 

To adhere to principles of fairness, individuals need to demonstrate reverence for legislative processes. Legislative measures and regard for the average citizen. A  small minority of long-age facilities possess has been established. In India as well, the increased industrialization, modernization, and urbanization have had an impact.

Lastly, in addition to political support for the protection of the elderly, it is essential to cultivate a  robust and empathetic civil society. This will foster a sense of social responsibility based on values, both at the individual and societal level, to safeguard our cherished Indian values that regard parents as divine beings.

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