7 Oct 2023 5:09 AM GMT
The Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi Government to conduct an exhaustive review of the existing cap on the beneficiaries under the Old Age Assistance Rules, 2009, taking into account the contemporary socio-economic conditions and the emerging needs of the elderly population. A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula also directed the government...
The Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi Government to conduct an exhaustive review of the existing cap on the beneficiaries under the Old Age Assistance Rules, 2009, taking into account the contemporary socio-economic conditions and the emerging needs of the elderly population.
A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula also directed the government to relook at the eligibility criteria of annual family income of Rs. 1 lakh per annum which is one of the eligibility conditions for the applicants to receive the financial aid under the Rules.
“Appropriate data-driven surveys may be conducted to ascertain the actual demand for the scheme and the changes in economic conditions, and the Rules must be revised on the basis of such a survey,” the court said.
In the interim, the bench directed the government to immediately and promptly establish and operationalize a transparent mechanism for real-time dissemination of information regarding the status of vacancies under the Rules, along with details of current enrolees.
The court observed that such system will ensure that potential applicants are timely and accurately informed about the availability of opportunities to apply for and receive benefits under the Rules.
“Additionally, the Respondents are instructed to consider the establishment of a systematic waitlist of applicants. This waitlist, operated on a first-come first-serve basis, must facilitate enrolment of eligible individuals (in the event of arising vacancies), through a seamless and efficient process, enhancing the overall accessibility to the Rules,” the court said.
It added that the process for application must be simplified and made accessible in a manner that it does not cause undue hardship to indigent applicants.
The court passed the order while dealing with pleas moved by two individuals. One of the petitioners was aggrieved by the rejection of his enrolment application under the Rules, owing to the exhaustion of available slot. Another petitioner sought extension of the benefits to a higher number of qualifying applicants.
The Rules provide that the applicants for financial aid must be aged 60 years or above, should have resided in Delhi for a minimum span of five years preceding the date of application and the annual family income from all sources should not exceed Rs. 1 lakh.
Under the Rules, a financial stipend of Rs. 2,000 is granted to the beneficiaries aged between 60 to 69 years and a sum of Rs. 2,500 is extended to those aged 70 years and beyond.
While acknowledging the concerns articulated by the petitioners regarding the cap on the beneficiaries under the Rules, the court said that such apprehensions alone cannot be the basis for judicial intervention.
“It is essential to highlight that the Rules in question do not emanate from any statute. It is fundamentally a policy decision, which is borne out of executive decisions, and hence, the Court’s ambit to intercede is circumscribed, unless there emerges a manifest arbitrariness or unreasonableness,” the court said.
Furthermore, the court said that the uniform application of eligibility criteria, while it unable to accommodate all, ensures a methodical and equitable distribution of available resources to a significant number of beneficiaries.
However, the bench also said that it is disconcerting that some aged destitute individuals are granted welfare under the Rules, while others who are equally deserving are sidelined.
“A transparent and accessible mechanism must be instituted for timely dissemination of information concerning the availability of vacancies under the Rules. These features are essential to enhance the Rules’ functionality, accessibility, and overall impact, thereby positioning it more closely with its foundational objective of providing effective financial assistance and social security to the elderly populace,” the court said while disposing of the pleas.
Advocates Rahul Sagar Sahay, Raghav Rajmalani and Prince Kr. Singh appeared for the petitioners.
ASCs Anuj Aggarwal and Prashant Manchanda with Advocates Ayushi Bansal, Arshya Singh, Yash Upadhyay, Angad Singh, Nancy Shah and Jay Shree appeared for respondent.
Title: AAKASH GOEL v. DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE DELHI GOVT and other connected matter
Citation:2023 LiveLaw (Del) 931
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