Theoretical Inquiries in Law 21 (1):77-102 (2020)

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 which aims to provide relief to aggrieved parents and senior citizens. In this Article, I analyse the relevant laws and discuss the nature of complaints lodged by elderly parents at the Maintenance Tribunal in Kolkata. 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. 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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DOI 10.1515/til-2020-0005
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