By Adv. Ajay Sharma
Indians are known for their high moral values, strong social bonding and unconditional love & respect for parents and elders. A land, where Lord Rama in compliance of the promises made by his father renounced his throne without any hesitation and spent his fourteen years in exile along with his wife and younger brother Laxmana; a land, where Bhishma Pitamaha in order to fulfil the wish of his father Shantanu who fell in love with Satyawati and wanted to marry her, took a vow and given his word to Satyawati to remain a bachelor all through his life; In every era, there are numerous instances where children out of love and respect sacrificed their lives for the glory and pride of their parents.
In the modern age, we are so self-centered and occupied that we hardly take care of our parents and elders. With the advancement of technology, our society has witnessed degradation in the ethics, moral values and social fabric of the society. Joint family System is rapidly gone astray and the more emphasis is now on a nuclear family consisting of husband, wife, and children only. Due to which, the parents and elders are compelled to live alone lacking love, care, emotional, physical and financial support. Every day, we heard that parents and elders are being abused, physically assaulted, ignored & deprived of basic amenities and being sent to old age homes or thrown out of the home by their children.
Considering such miserable and alarming condition of parents and elders and to overcome such problems, the Government of India on the initiative of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has enacted Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 for maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens. This Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir and it also applies to citizens of India residing outside India. This Act is superior to every other act and has an overriding effect on every other law for senior citizens.
The objective of this Act
This Act provides simple and summary procedure for the maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens as well as for the protection of their life and property and cast a legal obligation on children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents.
Relevant definitions under Section-2 of the Act
(a) “Children” includes son, daughter, grandson, and grand-daughter but does not include a minor;
(b) “Maintenance” includes provision for food, clothing, residence and medical attendance and treatment;
(d) “Parent” means father or mother whether biological, adoptive or stepfather or stepmother, as the case may be, whether or not the father or the mother is a senior citizen;
(f) “Property” means property of any kind, whether movable or immovable, ancestral or self-acquired, tangible or intangible and includes rights or interests in such property;
(g) “Relative” means any legal heir of the childless senior citizen who is not a minor and is in possession of or would inherit his property after his death;
(h) "Senior Citizen" means any person being a citizen of India, who has attained the age of sixty years or above;
(k) “Welfare” means provision for food, health care, recreation centers and other amenities necessary for the senior citizens.
Who are entitled to claim maintenance?
As per section 4 of the Act, a senior citizen including a parent who is unable to maintain himself/herself from his own earning or out of the property owned by him, shall be entitled to claim maintenance from one or more of his children (except minor) or such of his relative as the case may be.
Who can file the application for maintenance?
As per section 5 of the Act, the application for maintenance may be made by a senior citizen or a parent, as the case may be or if he is incapable, by any other person or organisation authorised by him; or the Tribunal may take cognizance suo moto.
The Tribunal during the pendency of the proceeding may also pass an order for interim maintenance till final order. If, children or relative so ordered fail, without sufficient cause to comply with the order, then for every breach of the order, the Tribunal may sentence such person up to one month or until payment, whichever is earlier. However, the application for issuance of the warrant shall be made to the Tribunal to levy such amount within a period of three months from the date on which it became due.
Where to file the application?
As per section 6 of the Act, the applicant may file the application against any children or relative in any district where he resides or last resided or where children or relative resides.
Against whom the Order for Maintenance be passed?
As per section 9 of the Act, if children or relatives, as the case may be, neglect or refuse to maintain a senior citizen being unable to maintain himself, the Tribunal may order such children or relatives to pay a monthly allowance to such senior citizen which shall not exceed ten thousand rupees per month.
In addition to the amount of maintenance, the Tribunal may direct that simple interest @ 5% to 18% shall also be paid on the amount of maintenance (section 14).
No parallel proceedings for maintenance
As per section 12 of the Act, a senior citizen or a parent who is entitled to maintenance under Chapter IX of the Code of Criminal Procedure as well as under this Act can only claim such maintenance under either of those Acts but not under both.
As per section 16 of the Act, any senior citizen or a parent, as the case may be, aggrieved by an order of a Tribunal may, within sixty days from the date of the order, prefer an appeal to the Appellate Tribunal.
Representation before the Tribunal
As per section 17 of the Act, no party to a proceeding before a Tribunal or Appellate Tribunal shall be represented by a legal practitioner. However, the Maintenance Officer appointed by State Government shall represent a parent if he so desires, during the proceedings of the Tribunal, or the Appellate Tribunal, as the case may be (section 18).
Duties of State Government under the Act
This Act cast several duties upon the State Government such as:
- Establishment of old age homes (section 19)
- Medical support for senior citizen (section 20) including beds for all senior citizens as far as possible; separate queues be arranged for senior citizens; research activities and facility for treatment of chronic, terminal and degenerative diseases is expanded for senior citizens
- Measures for publicity awareness, etc., for welfare of senior citizen (section 21) such as wide publicity through public media including the television, radio and the print, at regular intervals; periodic sensitization and awareness training; effective coordination between the services provided by the concerned Ministries or Departments relating to the welfare of the senior citizens and periodical review.
Transfer of property to be void in certain circumstances
As per section 17 of the Act, Where, a senior citizen has transferred his property by way of a gift deed or otherwise, subject to the condition that the transferee shall provide basic amenities and physical needs to the transferor and such transferee refuses or fails to provide such amenities and physical needs, the transfer of such 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.
Exposure and abandonment of senior citizen
As per section 24 of the Act, whoever, having the care or protection of senior citizen leaves such senior citizenin any place with the intention of wholly abandoning such senior citizen, shall be punishable with imprisonment up to three months or fine up to five thousand rupees or with both.
Nature of offences
As per section 25 of the Act, every offence under this Act shall be cognizable, bailable and tried summarily by a Magistrate.
Though the intention and the purpose of this Act is to provide better and dignified life to the parents and senior citizens but despite all relevant provisions of this Act, the menace of abuse and neglect of the parents and senior citizens are on rise day by day. The duties of the State Government should be made compulsory rather directory in nature and the punishment should be more deterrent and stringent for better implementation of this Act. Besides legal recourse, the state shall also make endeavour to educate and aware the people at large and to make them understand their responsibility towards their parents and senior citizens who made innumerable sacrifices in terms of their time, money, personal life etc. for them which cannot be repaid in any manner except love and respect.