As of July 2012 our country’s population is 1,205,073,612. Among this 10% of population is above 60 Years. These people’s are forced to spend their twilight years all alone and are exposed to emotional neglect and to lack of physical and financial support. This clearly reveals that ageing has become a major social challenge and there is a need to give more attention to the care and protection for the older persons. As per the Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 explains on “Order for maintenance of Wives, Children and Parents”.
But can see or hear a lot of aged people being neglected by their family. They are not treated even with basic human courtesy. 40 years earlier "a mother does not find it difficult to care for even 10 children, but all those 10 children put together sometimes find it difficult to look after their own mother."
However Maintenance of Parents and Senior citizen is the responsibility of every person. In India the uncared senior citizens including parents who are unable to maintain themselves from their own resources or abandoned by their children (Son or Daughter), can get their relief. Under this Act, children and property heirs must take care of the maintenance of their parents/senior citizens. Also this act has fulfilled the gaps in Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
THE MAINTENANCE AND WELFARE OF PARENTS AND SENIOR CITIZENS ACT, 2007 has passed in our parliament and this Act is to provide more effective provisions for the maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens guaranteed and recognized under the Constitution and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
Parents, even below the age of 60 years, and grandparents who are unable to maintain themselves from their own income can demand maintenance from their children (Son or Daughter) as defined in the Act and Childless Senior Citizens who are unable to maintain themselves from their own income can demand maintenance from their relatives who are in possession of or are likely to inherit their property.
Senior citizens who are unable to maintain themselves shall have the right to apply to a maintenance tribunal seeking a monthly allowance from their children or heirs.
State governments may set up maintenance tribunals in every sub-division to decide the level of maintenance. Appellate tribunals may be established at the district level.
Maintenance includes provision for food, clothing, residence, medical attendance and treatment. Maximum amount which may be ordered for maintenance of a senior citizen by the Tribunal shall be such as prescribed by the State Government which shall not exceed Rs. 10,000/- per month.
The application for maintenance may be made by the senior citizen or parent to the Maintenance Tribunal in layperson's language giving names, full details and addresses of the persons from whom they are demanding maintenance. If there is more than one child or relative, they may claim maintenance from one or all of them depending on their means of income.
If such applicants are not capable of making an application personally, any other person or registered voluntary organization authorized by him/her can make the application; or the Tribunal can take suo motu cognizance and proceed.
On receiving the application, the Tribunal issues notices to the children, conducts hearings, takes evidence and orders maintenance. The Tribunal may also refer the case for reconciliation or pass interim orders for maintenance.
If the children or relatives fail to pay the maintenance that is ordered, without sufficient reason for 3 months after its due date, the senior citizen can approach the Tribunal again who may impose a fine or order imprisonment of the child/relative up to a month or until payment is made whichever is earlier.
The maintenance allowance shall be payable from either the date of the order or the application, to be deposited within 30 days of the order. A simple interest payment between 5% and 18% on the monthly allowance from the date of the application may also be required.
The tribunal may alter the allowance for maintenance on proof of misrepresentation or mistake of fact or a change in the circumstance of the senior citizen or parent receiving the monthly payment.
The State Government may establish one appellate tribunal per district to be presided over by an officer not below the rank of District Magistrate. The appellate tribunal shall try to pronounce its order in writing within one month of the appeal.
On failure to comply with the maintenance fee, the tribunal may issue a warrant for collection within three months of the due date. Should the fee remain unpaid, the accused may be imprisoned for up to one month or until payment, whichever is earlier.
Punishment for abandoning a senior citizen shall include an imprisonment of up to three months or fine of up to Rs 5,000, or both.
Under Section 23 of the Act, if after commencement of the Act any Parents or senior citizens have transferred their property to their children or relatives on the condition that they would provide certain maintenance and amenities to the senior citizen but subsequently neglect or refuse to do so, the parents or senior citizens can get such transfers cancelled at their option by having such transfer treated as a fraudulent or coercive acquisition and seek return of their property so transferred.
Lawyers are excluded from the proceedings. Maintenance Officer can represent a parent or senior citizen if he/she wants.
The state government may establish and maintain at least one old age home per district with a minimum capacity of 150 senior citizens per home. The state government may also prescribe a scheme for the management of such homes. The scheme shall specify standards and services to be provided including those required for medical care and entertainment of residents of these old age homes
The state government shall ensure that government hospitals and those funded by the government provide beds for all senior citizens as far as possible. It shall ensure separate queues for senior citizens, expand facilities for treatment of diseases and expand research for chronic elderly diseases and aging. Every district hospital shall also earmark facilities for geriatric patients.
The state government is responsible for publicizing the provisions, as well as ensuring that government officers undergo periodic sensitizations and awareness training on issues relating to the Bill. The district magistrate shall be responsible for implementing the provisions of the Bill.
All Government hospitals or those funded by the Government must provide beds for Senior Citizens as far as possible. Also, special queues to access medical facilities should be arranged for them.
This act is very important as it ensures speedy, inexpensive proceedings. This will be a great relief to the parents and senior citizens. Also the precious time of Hon’ble court can be saved as Tribunals are established. This act is made applicable to senior citizens who are childless. So a very broad view is adopted in this act. No hiring of Advocates and hence the cost of proceedings is reduced. This act is silent in case of transfer of property to children. There should be some responsibility on parents not to prepare any will in favour of third parties when the children or relatives are taking care of them. Very quick and fast steps should be taken to make people aware of the stated act and to start all the proceedings of maintenance in Tribunal.
Shanmuga Sundaram R