The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 was assented by The President on December 29, 2007. This Act makes it legal obligation for children to provide maintenance to parents and senior citizens. The Act is in consonance with Article 21 of The Indian Constitution. Indian society lays high importance to provide care and protection to senior citizens. However, withering of human values has led to culmination of selfishness, leading to challenges faced by senior citizens. The aim of the Act is to provide maintenance to senior citizens casting an obligation on children and relatives of senior citizens to look after them. The act provides for protection of life and property of such citizens and also for setting up of old age homes.
The entire Act is divided into six main chapters dealing with definitions, maintenance of parents and senior citizens, establishment of old age homes, medical care, protection of life and property and offences. Senior citizen is defined as any person above the age of sixty years. Children include son, daughter, grandson and granddaughter. Relatives shall include all persons in possession of or the ones inheriting property of a senior citizen. Parents shall include both mother and father even if not 60 years of age.
Sections 4 to 18 deal with maintenance of parents and senior citizens. People entitled for maintenance under the Act are parent, grandparents and senior citizens who are unable to maintain themselves. All the parents and grandparents unable to maintain themselves are entitled for maintenance by their children. In case of childless senior citizens the relatives shall do all the necessary to maintain such senior citizens. Maintenance here would mean food, clothing, residence, medical attendance and treatment. Maximum amount which may be ordered for maintenance of a senior citizen by Tribunal shall be as prescribed by the State Government.
No civil court shall have jurisdiction to conduct proceedings under the provisions of the Act. Application for maintenance shall be made by senior citizen to the tribunal. Tribunal shall be ‘maintenance tribunal’ established under section 7 of the Act. The application shall contain name, address and all other necessary details of persons from whom maintenance is being demanded. Incase there is more than one child or relative then maintenance shall be claimed from all such persons depending on their means of income. Maintenance proceedings shall be initiated in the district where the parents or senior citizens reside or where the children or relatives reside. In matters where parents and senior citizens are not in a position to make an application, any other person, voluntary organisations registered under Societies Registration Act 1860 shall make an application, or tribunal suo motu shall take cognizance of the matter. Once an application for maintenance is received by a tribunal, it shall issue notices to children’s or relatives, conduct hearing, record evidence and finally decide the maintenance. Maintenance officer not below the rank of District Welfare Officer shall be appointed who incase required shall represent parent or senior citizen. Tribunal under the Act has power to initiate reconciliation proceeding or pass interim orders for maintenance before initiating proceedings. Incase the person who by an order of tribunal is directed to pay maintenance fails to do so, tribunal may impose fine or impose imprisonment on such person. The provisions of the Act are equally applicable on children and relatives, not residing in India. Incase a senior citizen is not satisfied with order of the Tribunal he shall appeal before Appellate Tribunal constituted under section 15 of the Act. Act provides for legal representation to senior citizens.
Act under chapter V provides for establishment of old age homes atleast one in every district. These homes shall be equipped with entertainment sources and medical facilities. Section 20 provides for availability of medical facilities to these citizens. Senior citizens shall have reservation of beds in hospitals, separate queues, and facilities for treatment of chronic diseases. In certain circumstance where children or relatives have promised to take care of senior citizen in lieu of property transfer, such children or relative shall provide for basic amenities to such senior citizen. Failure to provide basic amenities shall deem the transfer as fraudulent and is liable to be cancelled. Where children or relative has completely abandoned a senior citizen he shall be guilty under the Act and shall be sentence for an imprisonment of 3 months or with fine of rupees five thousand or both.
by Vibhuti Nakta
The Act is an effort to instil dignity to senior citizens shunned by their own children and relatives at an age where there need, both care and attention.