In a significant ruling, the Kerala High Court emphasized the entitlement of senior citizens to maintain connections with their siblings and close relatives, not limited solely to their children’s care. Justice Devan Ramachandran overturned a Maintenance Tribunal’s order that directed the relocation of a senior citizen to her aunt’s house, highlighting the importance of the senior citizen’s desires and well-being.

The case, Jagadesh Ramachandran v The Maintenance Tribunal, Thiruvananthapuram, involved a dispute where a son challenged the Maintenance Tribunal’s directive to transfer his senior citizen mother to his aunt’s custody. The tribunal’s decision was based on claims of inadequate care by the son, as highlighted in the report of a Social Justice Officer.

The High Court, upon considering submissions from both parties, stressed the significance of maintaining the senior citizen’s preference for the company and presence of close relatives, including siblings. The Court expressed the need for the Maintenance Tribunal to conduct further inquiries, especially concerning the desires and well-being of the senior citizen.

Justice Devan Ramachandran, while setting aside the tribunal’s order, underscored that denying the senior citizen the companionship of siblings and close relatives, as long as she desires it, is unwarranted. The Court noted that several orders had already permitted the senior citizen’s sister to visit her while she resided with her son, emphasizing the importance of such interactions for her mental well-being.

The Court refrained from delving into the merits of the conflicting contentions between the son and the aunt but prioritized the senior citizen’s dignity and self-respect. It cautioned against letting personal disputes impact the well-being of the senior citizen, who is suffering from dementia, emphasizing that her life must be treated with utmost respect.

Consequently, the High Court annulled the tribunal’s order and instructed the Maintenance Tribunal to conduct a thorough investigation. Additionally, it granted the respondent sister the right to approach the Maintenance Tribunal at any time to seek visitation rights with her senior citizen sister, who was residing with her son.

The legal representation for the petitioner was provided by Senior Counsel Nandakumar, instructed by Advocate Pooja Menon. On the other hand, the respondents were represented by Government Pleader P S Appu.

This landmark judgment, available in the citation 2023 LiveLaw(Ker) 717, underscores the rights of senior citizens to companionship beyond their immediate family and the significance of their desires for social interaction and relationships in their lives.

This ruling sets a precedent in recognizing the emotional and mental well-being of senior citizens, ensuring their right to nurture relationships with siblings and close relatives, thereby contributing to a more compassionate and understanding approach in decisions involving their care and companionship.

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