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OP-ED: Supporting the ones who supported us

  • Published at 09:27 pm February 28th, 2021
Senior Citizen
File Photo: A senior citizen Collected

The Pita Mata Bharan Poshan Ain needs to be updated

The maintenance of parents being a moral obligation is also a legal obligation in Bangladesh, non-compliance of which is punishable by law. In 2013, an act named the “The Pita Mata Bharan Poshan Ain” was enacted in Bangladesh, with the primary purpose of ensuring that parents do not face any ignorance or deprivation from their children. According to ABM Shahjahan Akanda, it is an attempt to ensure that parents are not forced to live in old homes, away from their family and loved ones.

However, there are certain problems with the law that need amendment to make it more reasonable, effective, and feasible. The definition provided for father or mother in s.2 clearly excludes adoptive, unmarried, or step-parents, which in many cases indicate an injustice.

Furthermore, the definition of child includes both boys and girls, thereby putting equal responsibility on both genders while giving girls a lesser share than boys (in most religions) when it comes to inheritance.

The definition of maintenance also makes clear that alongside the four fundamental human rights, children are obligated to provide companionship to their parents under this act. But the problem of including “provision of company” is that, under certain circumstances, it may be impossible for children to accompany their parents.

In that case, if the child tries to comply with this act, then they will have to undergo several adversities or even lose their job.

S.3 (3) states that, to ensure the provision of maintenance to parents, the children must ensure that they live in the same place as their parents. 

Nonetheless, ensuring proper maintenance of parents may be possible even if the children are not living with their parents. Hence, making it mandatory to live with parents may be problematic.

Nevertheless, the act has many positive aspects to it as well. S.3 (4) states that no child can force their parents to live, against their will, in an old home or somewhere else, together/separately. This protection may be quite helpful as there may be situations when a parent(s) is forced to leave their home. It is imperative to note that, not only is that a punishable offence under this act, it is also utterly immoral.

On many occasions, an unfortunate event may be witnessed when children do not stay informed about the health of their parents; consequently, parents may mentally, physically, or psychologically suffer. Thus, parents can reap the benefits of s.3 (5), which obliges all children to regularly stay informed about their parents’ health and provide them with necessary medical attention. 

S.3 (6) further adds that if the parents are not living with their children, then all children must meet their parents on a regular basis. However, as aforementioned, it can be difficult for children to do so. 

Perhaps to omit such difficulties, s.3 (7) requires children to provide a reasonable amount to the parents from their income when they are not living with them. But the term “reasonable” can be quite vague and, unfortunately, many children may use this term as a leeway to avoid their responsibilities.

One of the most noticeable enactments under this law is s.4 which goes on to explain that all children are bound to provide maintenance to their paternal grandparents in the absence of the father, and maternal grandparents in the absence of the mother.

According to this section, provision of maintenance to grandparents will be treated as provision of maintenance to their own parents. Nevertheless, it is highly unlikely that children who dislike looking after their own parents will look after their grandparents. From a real perspective, this section remains ineffective, no matter the punishment.

Violation of s.3 or s.4 and any subsections therein shall be punishable with a fine not exceeding Tk1 lac or with imprisonment not exceeding three months, provided the fine is unpaid -- s.5 (1). 

Subsection 2 underlines the same punishment for the other relatives of the child who are non-cooperative and obstruct the child providing their parents or grandparents with maintenance.  

Under s.6, offences under this act shall be cognizable, bailable, and compoundable, allowing both parents and children to compromise and settle when children breach their legal obligations. 

However, a major problem enshrined in s.7 (2) is that no court shall entertain any case filed under this act unless the parents themselves make a written complaint. This makes it difficult for parents who are mentally/physically incapable or not in the position to make such complaints, and may need another interested person (eg, NGO) to file a suit on their behalf.

Therefore, as Judicial Magistrate Muhammad Ali Ahsan said, the number of suits filed under this act remain low. 

Hence, it may be suggested that awareness campaigns be carried out all over the country so as to enable more people to know and utilize this act and attain justice.

Anusha Islam Raha is a graduate of law, and a writer of the International and Comparative Law Journal.