By Sunit Kumar Mondal, GNLU
Editor’s Note: This paper presents an analysis to the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. The legislation for the welfare of the Parents and Senior Citizens came into place with the development of the provisions of Article 41 with Entry 23 of the Concurrent List (Schedule VIII) of the Constitution of India.
This act came into practice on March 20, 2007. Dynamics of the world necessitates new response to achieve a broad national goal. There had been a steady growth in the population of the older population in India, due to the significant growth in the field of medicine resulting an appreciable increase in life expectancy. The traditional norms along with the status of the senior citizens have deteriorated due to the increasing population. The after effect of shrivelling of the joint family framework, industrialization, and globalization and so on is that countless number of parents were not being kept up by their kids, as it turned out to be the typical social practice. Thus, the elderly folks were currently laid open to enthusiastic disregard and to absence of physical and fiscal backing. They are confronting a ton of issues without satisfactory government managed savings. So, gradually there arises a reason for the children to perform their moral obligation towards their parents and to minimise the agony and suffering of this vulnerable section of society. Thereby, legislation for the welfare of the Parents and Senior Citizens came into place with the development of the provisions of Article 41 with Entry 23 of the Concurrent List (Schedule VIII) of the Constitution of India was been enacted and titled as The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.1
Before The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 was enacted there was a provision of a similar kind. The Section 125 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 gave a similar kind of protection to the parents where it cast a duty upon children to look after their parents. This provision was expressly enforced for the ‘maintenance of parents’ notwithstanding the rights of senior citizens without children. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 enacted by the Government of India was specifically for the parents and senior citizens, wherein children as well as legal heirs to property of a parent or senior citizen are duty bound to provide for maintenance. This modified system can be remedial upon the dynamics of the world where legislation is called for the moral duty of maintenance of parents and senior citizens.2
Subsequently, there are four questions that are to be answered as a part of the curriculum of the Legal Language for a total evaluation of 25 marks. The task was to examine the any five chapters of The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (Bare Act) and to identify the Cohesive Devices along their types and frequency. Followed by the occurrence or non-occurrence or frequency of occurrence of the Active or passive voices. After that the frequency of occurrence of Binomials or Binomial expressions and lastly identifying the Complex Sentences and Embedded Clauses including the full length of sentences from the Bare Act.
Cohesive Devices: Types and Frequencies
Cohesion as defined in the Oxford Dictionary is ‘the action or fact of forming a united whole’.3 And, according to Halliday and Hasan “Cohesion occurs when the interpretation of some element in the discourse is dependent on that of another”4 While cohesive devices are words or expressions are used in writing to lend cohesion to the text, that is, bind it together to give it unity and present it as a whole. Their appropriate use also works towards the coherence of a text or discourse. Their appropriate use also works towards the coherence of a text or discourse. As stated in Halliday and Hasan’s (1976) work5, there are five types of cohesive devices. They are as follows:
- Lexical Cohesion
After the study of five chapters specifically chapter Three to Seven of The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, it has been discovered that cohesive devices are frequently used. Examples of the same are given in the subsequent few paragraphs, to elaborate upon this argument.
For example, in Chapter Three, both Substitution and Ellipsis reference:
Section 19(1): The State Government may establish and maintain such number of old age homes at accessible places, as it may deem necessary, in a phased manner, beginning with at least one in each district to accommodate in such homes a minimum of one hundred fifty senior citizens who are indigent.6
Here, the use of the saying the word one to allude to old age homes in the same sentence is obviously substitution, while, in one hundred fifty senior citizens who are indigent the words senior citizens have been precluded from the sentence, in this way showing ellipsis. Anaphoric reference in Chapter Five:
Section 21(3): The State Government shall, take all measures to ensure that… effective co-ordination between the services provided by the concerned Ministries or Departments dealing with law, home affairs, health and welfare, to address the issues relating to the welfare of the senior citizens and periodical review of the same is conducted.7
Here, we can see that the words the same are used to refer to senior citizens, thus providing a clear instance of anaphora. In the chapter Five, Section 23(2) has examples of conjunction, too. Where any senior citizen has a right to receive maintenance out of an estate and such estate or part thereof is transferred, the right to receive maintenance may be enforced against the transferee if the transferee has notice of the right, or if the transfer is gratuitous; but not against the transferee for consideration and without notice of right.8 The words ‘or’ and ‘but’ are among the most commonly used conjunctions in the world. Common usage of the same is done by all speakers of English.
Cataphoric reference in Chapter Six of the Act.
Section 24: Whoever, having the care or protection of senior citizen leaves, such senior citizen in any place with the intention of wholly abandoning such senior citizen, shall be punishable with imprisonment9.
Here, the word whoever provides some sort of Cataphoric reference, when talking about people who abandon senior citizens. The most puzzling among all cohesive devices is the Lexical Cohesion.10 An approximate example of Lexical Cohesion may be found in Chapter Five of the Act.
Section 21(1): The State Government shall, take all measures to ensure that the provisions of this Act are given wide publicity through public media including the television, radio and the print, at regular intervals.11
Here, it may be said that the relation between television, radio and print is an example of lexical cohesion. With that being said, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 has several types of cohesive devices being used effectively to express meaning and to illustrate the true objective of the Act. It is an example of a somewhat modern piece of Indian legislature whose drafting shows some grammatical application.
Active and Passive Voices: Occurrence/Non-occurrence/Frequency of Occurrence
In general prospective, the active voice more than the passive voice in the Legal Language. Following the reasons for so:
- The active voice is concise. Concision and straightforward writing is obligatory.
For example: (In active voice) the man ate a banana. (In passive voice) a banana was eaten by the man.
- The active voice may be stronger than the passive voice. It can convey greater meaning.
For example: (In active voice) He will act in the school play. (In passive voice) the school play will be acted in by him.
- The active voice focuses on the actor rather than the act. The identity or role of the actor may be omitted by the passive voice.
For example: (In active voice) he slapped her. (In passive voice) she was slapped by him.
The passive voice is used in the following circumstances:
- When only the act or action is important, and the actor isn’t.
- When the actor is unknown or indefinite.
- When a specific element of the sentence is to be emphasised.
- When abstraction is appropriate or allowable.12
Moving on to the act in question. When all is said in done, it utilizes the active voice, apparently for the reasons explained above. We can say that this loans less space for innovative translation of the Act, implying that less potential is left for its procurement to be turned to suit anybody’s needs. The following is an instance of the passive voice as seen in Chapter Five:
Section 23(1): Where any senior citizen who, after the commencement of this Act, has transferred by way of gift or otherwise, his property, subject to the condition that the transferee shall provide the basic amenities and basic physical needs to the transferor and such transferee refuses or fails to provide such amenities and physical needs, the said transfer of property shall be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or under undue influence and shall at the option of the transferor be declared void by the Tribunal.13
Nonetheless, we might not be mixed up in suspecting that the drafters of the Act want to utilize the active voice more than the passive voice, in this way providing it clarity, brevity and force.
Binomials or Binomial Expressions: Frequency of occurrence
A binomial is a grouping of two words which have a place with the same structure class, and which are grammatically co-ordinated and semantically related. The utilization of binomials in four sorts of content was mulled over regarding four syntactic parameters: thematic structure, clausal structure, sentence elements and parts of speech. The syntactic conduct of binomials does not vary essentially in different genres. A binomial is commonly a couple of things which works as an adverb in the rheumatic part of the sentence. Thus, it is a helpful linguistic gadget for adding weight to the end of the sentence.
In legal English, binomials are 4-5 times more basic than in other composition writings, and they are most likely a style marker in the law dialect. Binomial expressions have a long tradition in Legal English. Now and then they are required for accuracy and for the purpose of precision and uncertainty, yet there are situations where doubling-up serves no particular purpose.14
The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 has very rare use of binomial expressions. There are a few places where they have been used in Chapter Five:
Section 21: The State Government shall, take all measures to ensure that … the Central
Government and State Government officers, including the police officers and the members of the judicial service, are given periodic sensitization and awareness training.15
Here, the phrases sensitization and awareness appear to be a binomial in nature. Further in the same section,
…effective co-ordination between the services provided by the concerned Ministries or Departments dealing with law, home affairs, health and welfare, to address the issues…16
The phrases such as health and welfare are examples of the binomial expressions. It creates the impression that, in light of a valid concern for clarity and compactness, the utilization of binomial interpretations, too, has been evaded to a huge degree (like that of the passive voice as pointed out beforehand) in The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.
Complex Sentences and Embedded Clauses: Identification
Legal writing has a propensity towards long, complex sentences with different vulnerable provisions. This may be seen as needing to blanket all possibilities, yet truly it frequently winds up making a wreck of complicated, conceptual words and provisos.17 The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 is no exception to what is stated above. Quite a few exceedingly long sentences have been used, particularly in Chapter Five:
Section 23(1): Where any senior citizen who, after the commencement of this Act, has transferred by way of gift or otherwise, his property, subject to the condition that the transferee shall provide the basic amenities and basic physical needs to the transferor and such transferee refuses or fails to provide such amenities and physical needs, the said transfer of property shall be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or under undue influence and shall at the option of the transferor be declared void by the Tribunal.18
Here, it is evident that the majority of the sentence is embedded clauses, with only the said transfer of property shall be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or under undue influence and shall at the option of the transferor be declared void by the Tribunal turning out to be an independent clause.
Another example, in the same Chapter, is Section 22(1):
The State Government may, confer such powers and impose such duties on a District Magistrate as may be necessary, to ensure that the provisions of this Act are properly carried out and the District Magistrate may specify the officer, subordinate to him, who shall exercise all or any of the powers, and perform all or any of the duties, so conferred or imposed and the local limits within which such powers or duties shall be carried out by the officer as may be prescribed.19
Nonetheless, gratefully for the reader, there are numerous basic, short sentences which satisfy their necessity efficiently. For example: In Chapter Seven, Section 30:
The Central Government may give directions to State Governments as to the carrying into execution of the provisions of this Act.20
The above sentence is the shortest one present in the Act. A similar example can be given from the same Chapter, is Section 26:
Every officer or staff appointed to exercise functions under this Act shall be deemed to be a public servant within the meaning of section 21 (45 of 1860) of the Indian Penal Code.21
Thus, it may be inferred that, the Act does not consistently utilize any one standard style of sentence structure all around, yet has an uneven appropriation between basic, compound and complex sentences. In the complex sentences, inserted provisos are utilized within substantial amounts.
Following is the conclusion that is drawn after the careful study of the five chapters (3 – 7) of The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007:
- Types and frequencies of Cohesive devices: Almost different sorts of cohesive devices are utilized within the Act, periodically. It can’t be said that they are utilized very often, yet they are not by any stretch entirely obscure. It have been categorised into five types; namely Reference/Referencing, Substitution, Ellipsis Conjunction and Lexical Cohesion. And examples have been sighted for the all the five types.
- Occurrence/Non-Occurrence/Frequency of Occurrence of Active and Passive Voice: The active voice is used almost entirely in the Act; however, there are some places where the usage of the passive voice is noticed and examples of the same have been quoted from the bare act.
- Frequency of occurrence of Binomials and Binomial Expressions: Binomial expressions are not seen very much in the Act, but a few examples have been sighted along with the explanation for the same.
- Identification of the Complex Sentences and Embedded Clauses: The drafters of the Act have not utilized any sentence structure consistently through the Act, deciding to deviate between straightforward, compound and complex sentences. It must be noted, notwithstanding, that wherever complex sentences are utilized, they hold multiple dependent clauses.
In general, the drafting of the Act needs to be made more uniform, remembering a general sentence structure and thought of the entirety. The Act, however coherent, is not exceptionally cohesive, and a few sentences frequently feel incoherent or off centre to the reader.
Edited by Hariharan Kumar
1. Runa Mehta Thakur, International Journal of Advancements in Research & Technology, Philosophy of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 in India: An Appraisal., Volume 1, Issue 4, September-2012 ISSN 2278-7763
2. Preeti Goel, Section 125 CrPC & Welfare of Citizens Act, http://voice4india.org/2010/02/12/sec-125-crpc-maintenance-welfare-of-parents-and-senior-citizens-act/ (Last Accessed 28-03-14)
3. Oxford Dictionary of English, Oxford University Press, 3rd Ed., 2010
4. Halliday M A K & Hasan R, Cohesion in English, London: Longman, 1976
5. Carrell, P. Cohesion is not Coherence, TESOL Quarterly, 1982
6. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007
8. Supra N.6
10. Supra N.4
11. Supra N.6
12. Wydick, Richard C., Plain English for Lawyers, 66 Cal. L. Rev. 727, 1978
13. Supra N.6
14. Marita Gustafsson, The syntactic features of Binomial Expressions in Legal English, Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse, Volume 4 (1-3), Jan 1, 1984
15. Supra N.6
17. Huddleston, Rodney and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 2005.
18. Supra N.6
19. Supra N.6