By : Ms.Bhakti Pasrija Sethi,Advocate

Supreme Court of India

It happened around three months ago.I was sitting in the Ladies Bar room in the premises of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and waiting for turn of my case which was listed at end of the Board. I was turning pages of the newspaper for just passing the time and in this interregnum I came across yet another news related to the quandary of Old Age. It said “an elderly couple from Thakurdwar, near Charni Road has written to the President’s office, seeking permission for “active euthanasia”, where a person is killed, usually by administering an overdose of painkillers or some lethal substance.

The title of the news report from the Hindustan Times dated 9.1.2018   read ‘Fearing illness, Mumbai couple seeks euthunasia’.It further said, the couple, Iravati Lavate, 79, a retired school principal and her husband Narayanan, 86, a former government employee, have no major health problems.However, the fear of falling terminally ill and of not being able to ‘contribute to society’ has pushed them to write to the President of India to seek permission for ‘doctor assisted death’. The couple does not have any children and it was their decision to not have kids and now in their old age they don’t want others to be liable for their conditions later.

The present laws in our country do not allow active euthanasia. The question which intrigues me here is that why the social system has eroded so much? Why an Old Grandpa and Grandma are asking for death? Why they want a Doctor to assist them to die when otherwise they have no major ailment but they fear ‘what will happen to them after some more years?’

My dear friends, there are many such old Grandpa’s and Grandma’s who live alone. Some of them are living a blessed life and still enjoying every bit of it. While many spend each day in agony and misery. Every other day we come across instances. For example, one of the news (reported in Hindustan times on 8.8.2017) from the last year is totally heart wrecking. It goes as follows:-

‘Man returns from US after a year, finds mother’s skeleton in Mumbai flat

Rituraj works at an IT company in the US, where he lives with his wife. It is unclear if he has any children.

MUMBAI Updated: Aug 08, 2017 09:29 IST

The police are asking neighbours and security guards if they noticed a smell emanating from the flat. (HT)

A year after he last spoke to his mother on the phone, 43-year-old Rituraj Sahani returned home from America to find her skeleton in their posh Oshiwara flat on Sunday.

The police said their investigation revealed that the skeleton is of Asha Sahani, 63, who had been living alone in her flat on the 10th floor of Bellscot Tower in Andheri (West).

Rituraj works at an IT company in the US, where he lives with his wife. It is unclear if he has any children.

“Rituraj visits India to meet his mother either once a year or every six months. He last spoke to her in April last year. He claims that he has no relatives in the city,” said a police officer.

Rituraj reached Mumbai around 3.30 pm. When he rang the doorbell of the flat, she did not respond.

The door was locked from the inside and so he asked a key maker to help him open the door, added the official. On entering, he saw that his mother’s body had completely decomposed and only her skeleton had remained.

Rituraj contacted the Oshiwara police station. A team visited the spot and sent the body to Siddharth Hospital for a post-mortem. The police registered a case of accidental death. “We will only be able to ascertain the cause of death after we get the post mortem report,” said inspector Arjun Rajane of the Oshiwara police station.

“The door was locked from the inside, so it appears that the woman died of natural causes,” police officials added.’

It is very sad and thought provoking that a person died all alone, unwanted and unloved with no one around her. She was not accidentally alone for a day or two. But here even her own son spoke to her a year ago and then did not bother at all. It’s ironical that now days for some people parent’s are just casual strangers with whom they occasionally keep in touch.

Life is a wonderful journey with its own twists and turns and the Old age is its last phase and perhaps the most difficult one at times.

We are all sailing in the same boat and one day would reach that phase of life. It’s time for all to wake up and do something.

Let’s pledge to make ‘Old age’ a beautiful, peaceful and graceful phase of life. Let the spirit smile when it leaves the world. Let no one die uncared. Let’s not abandon our near and dear ones on account of their age. Let’s care for them. Let’s listen to them. Let’s laugh with them. Lets become part of the change. Let’s be sensitive and compassionate human beings.

(To be continued by way of more insights, laws, practical experiences etc.related to the topic)