Maintenance of aged mother: HC dismisses sons’ petition
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Maintenance of aged mother: HC dismisses sons’ petition

July 15, 2023
  • Sons challenge Mysuru DC Court’s order of monthly payment to ailing mother
  • HC says children are bound by law, religion and custom to care for aged parents

Mysore/Mysuru: Expressing concern over the increasing number of youngsters failing to fulfil their obligations towards their ageing and ailing parents and calling it an unhappy development, the Karnataka High Court (HC) on July 12 dismissed a petition filed by siblings from Mysuru, Gopal and Mahesh, who challenged a maintenance order to pay Rs. 10,000 per month to their aged mother.

The Court upheld the order  of the DC and underlined the importance of respecting the legal, religious and cultural obligation of sons to care for parents in their old age. The dispute was between Venkatamma, wife of late Yellaiah, a resident of Kurimandi Circle, Kesare, in N.R. Mohalla and her sons, Gopal and Mahesh.

The dispute began when the Assistant Commissioner (AC) of Mysuru H.N. Shivegowda ordered Gopal and Mahesh to pay Rs. 5,000 each as monthly maintenance to their mother, Venkatamma, in 2019.

Dissatisfied with the decision, the brothers appealed to the then Deputy Commissioner (DC) Abhiram G. Sankar, who subsequently (22-05-2019) increased the maintenance amount to Rs. 10,000 each. Disappointed with this outcome, Gopal and Mahesh further challenged the order in the High Court.

Penalty for petition

Justice Krishna S. Dixit of the Karnataka High Court, while dismissing the petition and affirming the DC’s decision, rebuffed all the arguments raised by the brothers. The Court also imposed a cost of Rs. 5,000 on the brothers for filing the petition.

In its ruling, the Court emphasised that the obligation to care for dependent parents by a son is as crucial as supporting a dependent spouse. The Court rejected the brothers’ claim of insufficient means to provide financial support, stating that their argument was no ground for neglecting the responsibility of caring for their ageing and  ailing mother.

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The Court noted that Gopal owns three shops and earns a rental income of Rs. 20,000, despite disclosing only Rs. 10,000 as his income. “The second petitioner is not before the Court, but it is his case too that he is weak and incapable of earning,” the Court said.

“If an able-bodied person is bound to maintain his dependent wife, there is no reason why such a rule should not apply when it comes to the case of a dependent mother. With no joy in heart, this Court observes that nowadays, a section of youngsters is failing to look after the aged and ailing parents and the number is swelling. This is not a happy development,”  Justice Krishna Dixit said.

Judge quotes scriptures

Quoting scriptures, including the ‘Taittiriya Upanishad’ and the ‘Brahmanda Purana,’ the Court emphasised the legal, religious and customary duty of sons to care for their parents, especially their aged mother. “To neglect the parents, particularly in their old age, when they become weak and dependent and to cause anguish, is a heinous act for which there is no atonement available,” Justice Krishna  Dixit said.

The Court dismissed the brothers’ contention that Venkatamma should live with them instead of her daughters.

‘Bread costlier than blood’

“This Court saw Venkatamma, who is illiterate and has fragile health conditions. Her eyesight is considerably diminished. No law or ruling cites that unwilling parents can be forced to reside with children. Such a contention is incongruous and abhorrent to our culture and tradition, to say the least,” the Judge said.

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The Court also dismissed the allegation that Venkatamma’s daughters manipulated her.

“It is not that the daughters want any share in the family property. It is they who have been looking after the mother abandoned by the sons. We are living in an age where bread is costlier than blood. Money is losing its purchasing power and days are proving very costly. A sum of Rs. 10,000 by any measure cannot be said to be excess,” the Court said.

Children must care for aged parents

I do not particularly remember the case of Venkatamma, Gopal and Mahesh. But when I was the Mysuru Assistant Commissioner, I remember adjudicating five to six such cases where children were in dispute with their aged parents. I am happy that the High Court has ruled in favour of the elderly woman as it is the duty of children to take care of their parents. Initially, when such cases come to the AC Court or DC Court, we first advise the children to take care of their parents. We proceed legally only when the children refuse to listen to us. —H.N. Shivegowda, Former (2019) Assistant Commissioner, Mysuru and present Additional Commissioner (Administration), Excise Department, Bengaluru

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