Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Mumbai woman worth Rs 30 crore dies of neglect, HC lambasts state.........

MUMBAI: An angry Bombay high court on Monday pulled up the state after hearing how a 68-year-old woman died of neglect despite owning property estimated at Rs 30 crore off Yari Road in Versova.

The court said it was "unfortunate" that neither her family nor the state took care of her though a law for the welfare of senior citizens mandates medical support and old age homes. "Other senior citizens should not face a similar fate," it said, adding it wishes to examine the scope and ambit of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.

Jayshree Gholkar died penniless after being deserted by the family of a deceased brother living in an adjacent bungalow and another brother who is settled in the US. Natasha Sara, a beauty parlour owner who stays nearby, found her "lying desolate on the bed, frail and ill" and looked after her till the end.

When her condition deteriorated, the HC, moved urgently, directed the Versova police to admit her in J J hospital on January 7. She died on January 9, prompting another round of callousness as Versova and J J Marg police bickered over who should complete the formalities.

A division bench of Justices V M Kanade and Revati Mohite-Dere called for better provisions by the state to look after neglected senior citizens while hearing a public interest litigation filed in 2012 for enforcing the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007. Sara had moved the high court with a friend after stumbling on the deplorable condition of Gholkar in Sita Kutir, her house.

Senior counsel Nitin Pradhan, appearing for Sara, pointed out the state government "took three years to issue notification in 2010 to direct its (the law's) implementation and in 2011, to appoint social welfare officers by delegating power".

"Had something happened, she would have survived,'' said Pradhan. "She would have lived in a better condition. She would not have died an orphan," said Justice Kanade.

The bench said it was essentially the state's responsibility to look after Gholkar. "Many such old people who have relatives who don't look after them, it is the state's responsibility to ensure there are old age homes built for them. Only when the court takes cognizance, unfortunately the state gets up,'' said Justice Kanade.

The bench directed the state to reply on steps taken to establish old age homes and maintenance tribunals, appointment of maintenance officers, medical support to senior citizens and increase awareness of the Act. It also asked "if any prosecution is initiated by the state government under the said provisions".

"For five years, Gholkar was in such a wretched condition. Same fate must not be suffered by others," Pradhan said, adding that under the Act, anyone neglecting a senior citizen which ultimately leads to unfortunate consequences is not entitled to the person's property. The court noted that from Gholkar's post-mortem report it appeared that she died of natural causes.

The police have been directed to hand over Gholkar's body to a cousin. Her property has been sealed and the court has directed that it "continue to remain in the possession of the court until further orders''.

"It is common knowledge that norms and values of Indian society are not being followed and senior citizens not respected as they used to be," the court said, blaming the crumbling of the joint family system that is giving rise to nuclear families. "Most children, in the last three decades, prefer to stay abroad... leaving behind old and ailing parents who have nothing to fall back on."

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