Retirement homes: Madras HC directs government to ensure basic facilities

The Madras HC has directed the TN government to inspect all retirement homes in the state, following allegations that the promoters of several such projects charged exorbitant fee but did not provide minimum standards

The Madras High Court, on February 5, 2019, directed the Tamil Nadu government to inspect all old age homes in the state and file a report, after a PIL alleged that senior citizens had been taken for a ride by retirement homes in Coimbatore. A division bench of justices Vineet Kothari and CV Karthikeyan, gave the interim order on the public interest litigation, which sought implementation of the November 23, 2016 government order related to running of old age homes in letter and spirit.

The PIL filed by an inmate of a retirement home, ‘Tapovan’ in Coimbatore, alleged that the promoters charged exorbitant fees but did not provide minimum standards of facility, as had been prescribed in the government order. The petitioner said several real estate promoters offered such homes on lease and sale basis in Coimbatore with attractive assurances, to draw former government and public sector employees. After the PIL was filed, similar alleged deficiencies in two other retirement homes, ‘Nana Nani Home’ and ‘Dhyanaprastha Foundation’, in Coimbatore came to the knowledge of the court.

When the petition came up for hearing on February 5, state Social Welfare and Nutritious Meal Programme Department’s secretary, K Manivasan, filed a status report in compliance with an earlier order of the court. The report said the registration of Tapovan had been cancelled, after deficiencies and certain violations were noted. It also gave the number of government-approved homes, district-wise.

The bench in its order said, “It seems the three old age homes in the city itself are facing difficulties and inmates of those old age homes appear to be facing quite a great amount of discomfort.” In the absence of proper supervision, regulation, inspection and provision of the requisite facilities in such homes, the complainants have reached the stage of filing not just PILs, but also contempt petitions, it said. Referring to the cancellation of the registration of Tapovan, the bench said that ‘we do not consider it as a sufficient and proper remedy to the situation’ and added that it may add to the problem. It would pose a problem, because the inmates of Tapovan may shift to other homes in the same district or other districts. Hence, the problem would not be solved at all, they said.

On the contrary, the state and its authorities should ensure that the management of such homes offer basic minimum facilities such as water, electricity and food that go to the root of giving a dignified life to the senior citizens of the old age homes. The court then recorded an undertaking given by Manivasan that he would visit old age homes in Coimbatore, conduct meetings with district-level committees and file an affidavit with the remedial action.

Also, the bench suggested that the homes maintain a register or box for suggestions, so that the inmates can record their grievances. It directed that inspections of old age homes be carried out in all the districts and the compliance reports be presented to the court, on the next date of hearing. The court then adjourned the hearing to March 9, 2019.