Aging is a natural process,which occurs in human life cycle. It brings about lots of changes in the life of the elderly,which are mostly by the changes in their body,mind,thought and the living patterns. There had been steady growth in the population of the older persons in India due to the significant growth in the field of medicine resulting an appreciable increase in life expectancy. As per the UNESCO estimates,the number of the aged (60 plus) was likely to 590 millions in 2005. Traditionally in India, it has been a part of our culture,for society and the family to take care of older persons. Senoir cotizens are held in high esteem and are given priority and respect an all matters.
Today, rapid urbanization and the compulsions of modern working conditions have lead to a breakdown of the traditional joint family system resulting in the growth of nuclear families. As their children settled down in other cities ,many parents found themselves living alone. The frailty of old age combined with health probems,crimes by anti social elements and unsufficient income has left them with a feeling of rising insecurity.Children ,being busy with their new lives,are unable to visit regularly. Parents have to cope single handedly,which is quite difficult considering their limited earnings.
Availabilty of legal protection: The Chapter IV of the Constitution has taken up the concerns of the elderly.Nonetheless, these are not enforceable by the law.In 1956, the Hindu Law made a statutary provision for the elderly. Maintenance of parents by their children is provided in Section 20 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenence Act of 1956. However, here too it remained only a moral obligation.In 1973, for the first time a provision was introduced in the CrPC. An elderly person could thus move to the court fir his maintenence. It is , however, essential that the other party has sufficient means and has neglected or refused to maintain the parent who is unable to take care of himself. This law is secular and includes married daughters in addition to sons.However, the parent needs to approach the court against an offspring and the onus was on the parents to prove that the other party has sufficient means and has refused to maintain him i.e. the parent.
This is harsh and cumbersome as well. The Government of India approved the National Policy for Older Persons on January 13,1999 in order to accelerate welfare measues and empowing the elderly in ways beneficial for them.The policy mentions, the layout of the housing colonies will respond to the needs and life styles of the elderly,they are alloted ground floor and their social interaction with older society members exists.
Legislation for the welfare of the Parents and Senior Citizens:Legislation for the welfare of the Parents and Senior Citizens came into place and titled as The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007.This Act seeks to make it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens. It includes all Indian Citizens, including those living abroad. U/S 5(1), a senior citizen who is at least 60 years old. A parent could be father or mother whether biological adoptive or step father or step mother,whether or not the father or the mother is a senior citizen. If the senior citizen or parent is incapable or a voluntary organization authorized by the senior citizen or parent can apply for maintenence on their behalf.
Maintenance includes provision of food, clothing, residence and medical attendance and treatment. Section 4 provides that a citizen including parents who is unable to maintain himself from his own earning or property owned by him, shall be able to claim maintenance u/s 5. The obligation of the children or relative may be such so that senior citizen may lead a normal life. A relative may maintain the senior citizen provided he is in possession of the property of such senior citizen.In Glorybai V. S.KA. Noorjakan Beevi...It was held that the parents are dependents of their daughters as well and are entitled to seek maintenance even from the married daughters. Hence, the Insurance Company could not deny compenstion on the ground that the appellants were not dependents of their deceased married daughter.
According to Section 7 , the State Government within six months from the date of commencement of this Act may constitute for each Sub-Division one or more Tribunals for the purpose of adjudicating and deciding upon the order for maintenance. It shall be presided by Sub-Divisional Officer of a State.The Government may distribute the business between two or more Tribunals. Section 9 says ,where the children or relative neglect or refuse to maintain, the Tribunal may order to make a monthly allowance. The maximum allowance ordered by Tribunal must be Rs.10,000 per month. According to Section 10, the Tribunal may make alterations as it thinks fit, in the monthly allowance. According to section 11, copy of the maintenance order shall be given to the senior citizen without any fees. The maintenance can be claimed either under this Act or Under CrPC , not in both according to section 12.
Section 13 says ,the children or relative who is required to pay any amount shall within 30 days,deposit the entire amount.Section 14 says, where any Tribunal makes an order,it may in addition of maintenance direct to pay simple interest not less than 5%.According to section 15, the State Government may constitute an Appellate Tribunal to hear the appeals against the order of the Tribunal. It shall be presided by District Magistrate. U/S 16 a parent or senior citizen amy with in 60 days of the order of Tribunal file an appeal. The Appellate Tribunal may call for the record of proceedings from the Tribunal. Both Tribunals shall be represented by legal practioner u/s 17. The Appellate Tribunal pronounce its order within one month of the receipt of an appeal.
Section 18 provides, the State Government shall designate the District Social Welfare Officer as the Maintenance Officer. Section 19 provides the establishment of Old Age Homes at least one in each District and accomodate minimum 150 senior citizens who are indigent. They should be provided with all services such as medical care and means of entertainment. In Section 20, State Government establish Hospitals , Seperate queues for senior citizens ,facilities for treatment of chronic ,terminal and degenerative diseases, research activities and every District hospital should be headed by a medical officer with an experience in Geriatric care. U/S 21 State Government take all measures to give wide publicity througgh public media about the awareness of the Act.
Section 23 says if a senior citizen by way of gift transfers his property with a condition that the transferee shall provide the basic amenities and basic physical needs,fails to do so, that transfer shall be deemed as void. Section 24 provides whoever,having the care and protection of senior citizens leave that person with an intention to abondon shall be punishable with imprisonment which may ectend to three months or Rs.5000 fine or both.In Krishan Chander V. Gaurav Gupta and Ors...no case of intentional abondonment u/s 24 is made out against the accused.
Critical Appraisal: It is unfortunate that the government has not made any serious attempt to corner the senior citizens under 'Group Health Insurance Scheme'. It believes that insurance coverage is mostly required in critical illness and the places where adequately equipped hospitals are not available. AIIMS Delhi, is adequately equipped to treat indigent senior citizens. The Act does not cover Old Age Pension Scheme It should mandated the State Government to pay old age pension to the senior citizens adequately.The Government while drafting Bill ,uses the word 'may' instead of 'shall' where the provisions are of mandatory nature. The Bill has provisions where the chances of misuse are greater than beneficial use. What if particular heir or children live outside India? Will that give the senior citizen a right to live with them.
It is rightly said,"The most beautiful thing in this world is to see your parents smiling and knowing that you are the reason behind that smile".
Vanita Bansal (Advocate)
Vanita Bansal (Advocate)