The Supreme Court on Thursday said that senior citizens should get a meaningful pension to live with dignity, and not just the equivalent of Rs 92 at current value.
The apex court said the State was “obligated to ensure” that the right to live with dignity that includes reasonable shelter, health care, clothing and meaningful pension for elderly people without any means was “not only protected but are enforced and made available to all citizens”.
Noting that in real terms the value of Rs 200 being given as pension to elderly people since 2007 today stands at about Rs 92, the bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta in their judgement said the provision for basic necessities which includes, nutrition, clothing and shelter can be made only if the elderly are provided with some pension which is meaningful and not pension which is equivalent to Rs 92 per month.
If the current value of the rupee is taken into consideration, the amount of Rs 200 in real terms actually works out to about 92 per month on the lower scale.
The court directed the Centre and states to revisit the grant of pension to the elderly so that it is more “realistic”.
It said the schemes which are “comparatively dated” should be re-looked and overhauled to bring about convergence and avoid multiplicity.
The court said this as it issued a number of directions for the enforcement of pension for the elderly, shelter, geriatric care and medical facilities and the effective implementation of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
Addressing the question of the limited capacity of the State in meeting the expenses of the welfare measures for the elderly people, the court said: “The consideration of ‘economic budgeting’ by the Centre and states must have been taken into account while enacting the legislation.”
Speaking for the bench, Justice Lokur said “there cannot be any excuse of lack of finances” either by the Central or state governments in “strictly implementing the provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007”.
In short, the court said, if not the constitutional then at least the statutory rights of elderly persons must be recognised and implemented.
The court also directed that the Central government should obtain necessary information from all states and union territories on the number of old age homes in each district.
The Central government, the court said, would also obtain information on the medical facilities and geriatric care facilities that are available to senior citizens in each district.
Referring to the provisions of the MWP Act, the court directed the Centre to exercise its power and issue appropriate directions to the States for the effective implementation of the provisions of the MWP Act and monitor its execution.
As the court has decided to monitor the implementation of its directions, the Centre was directed to file a status report by January 31, 2019.