BY ANANYA S
Any person who has attained sixty years or above is called Senior Citizens’. The contributions of senior citizens in the society is enormous. United Nation observed October 1 as International Day for Older Persons and it focus mainly for the well being of elderly people and August 21st is recognised as the National Senior Citizens Day. Senior Citizens are more vulnerable to age related diseases so they need more care and special attention.
According to the United Nations, there were 703 million senior citizens in the world in 2019. World Health Organisation estimated that there will be an increase in the population of senior citizen upto 2 million by 2025 and in India the Government report indicated that there will be an increase of 14.3 crore in 2021 and 17.3 crore in 2026.
In 1999,the United Nations General Assembly approved United Nations Principles for Older Persons for preventing the abuse of elderly people. The main principles are Independence, Participation, Care, Self-fulfilment and Dignity. But there is no special convention for the protection of the rights of elderly people. In 2013, a panel of Human Rights Council discussed about the violence and abuse of elderly people and as result of this a Public Consultation Program is organised to find out the violence and abuse against senior citizens. On the basis of this program, UN Secretary General given a report before the General Assembly and that report mainly focused on human rights of elderly person. The report mainly identified four main challenges and they are discrimination, poverty, violence, abuse and lack of specific measures and services. Conclusion of the report was that United Nation Convention on the Rights of Older Person is essential to ensure the human rights of senior citizens.
SENIOR CITIZENS’ LAWS IN INDIA
Indian Constitution provides certain provisions for protecting the rights of senior citizens. The provisions are provided in the Directive Principles of State Policy under Part IV. Article 41 directs the State to make effective provisions for securing the right to work and to public assistance in case of old age. Under Article 46, it provides that State shall promote economic interest of weaker sections.
● Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956
Article 20 of the Act impose statutory obligation on both son and daughter for maintaining their parents who cannot maintain themselves. According to this Act, step parents cannot claim maintenance from step children if they have there own children.
● Muslim law
Under Muslim law it is the duty of both son and daughter to maintain their poor parents and they are bound to do so.
● Christian and Parsi law
Christian and Parsi law have no provisions for giving maintenance to parents. But they can claim it under Criminal Procedure Code.
Criminal Procedure Code
Under Section 125 of Code, all parents irrespective of religion and not able to maintain themselves can claim maintenance from their children and here children includes son, daughter and also married daughter.
Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007
This Act is a special legislation which promotes welfare and also protects the rights of senior citizens. The Act mainly focused on giving maintenance to senior citizens by their children. According to this Act, a senior citizen means any person being a citizen of India who has attained sixty years or above.
The Act applies to whole India and also applicable to Indian citizens outside India.
Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 provides provision for protection of life and property of senior citizens and also provide medical support for senior citizens. Act also put forward the provisions for the establishment of old age homes in every district.
According to this Act maintenance means any provision for food, clothing, residence and also medical attention and treatment. Children in this Act includes son, daughter, grandson and grand-daughter who is not a minor. Under this Act, there is a Maintenance Tribunal for deciding the matters connected with maintenance.
The main provisions in this Act are following :
● Maintenance of parents and senior citizen
If senior citizen is unable to maintain himself from his own earnings or from property which is owned by him, can file an application for maintenance against his one or more children. Here the obligation of children is mentioned as duty to fulfill the needs of parents to have a normal life.
● Application for maintenance
Application for maintenance can be filed by senior citizen himself or by any person or a registered organisation authorised by him.
Maintenance Tribunal can also take suo motu cognizance.
● Disposal of Application
Tribunal may issue notice to respondent regarding this application and provide them time to furnish reply. Maintenance Tribunal shall dispose application within ninety days from the date of receipt of notice by the respondent. But in exceptional circumstances, Tribunal can also extend time period for another thirty days.
● Tribunal has power to provide interim relief to senior citizens during pendency of proceeding.
● Maintenance Tribunal can pass an order for maintenance to pay monthly allowance of 10,000 Rupees per month. Tribunal has also power to modify, alter or cancel such an order.
● The Maintenance order under this Act have same force and effect as the order passed under Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code. There is penal provision for the enforcement of the order, which include imprisonment upto One month and also can issue warrant for levying due amount.
● Any senior citizen or a parent distressed by the order of Tribunal can file an appeal to Appellate Authority within sixty days from the date of order and Appellate Authority decide the case within one month after receiving receipt of appeal.
● Abandoning a senior citizen in a place by a person who is legally bound to look after him is considered as an criminal offence and it is punishable with imprisonment for a period of three months and fine upto three hundred Rupees.
● The Act provides provision for medical care of senior citizens. It is the duty of State Government to ensure that they get sufficient medical care from government hospitals.
● The Act also provides provisions for the protection of life and property of senior citizens. The Central Government and State Government should take all measures for awareness for welfare of senior citizens.
● Under this Act the Central Government make periodical review and also track the progress of implementation of the provisions of the Act.
Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019
This Bill is the first major amendment to the Maintenance Act of 2007.The bill was introduced in Lokh Sabha on December 2019.
The major changes brought by the Bill are following :
● The Bill added step children, adoptive children, children-in laws and also legal guardian of minor in the definition of ‘children’.
● Parent-in law and grandparents were included in the definition of ‘parents’.
● The bill expanded the definition of ‘maintenance’ and included safety, health care and also security for parents in the definition.
● The Bill added housing, clothing, safety and other amenities for the well being of senior citizens under ‘welfare’.
● The bill removed the ceiling limit of ten thousand rupees of maintenance fee and now it is decided by the earning capacity of children and also by ascertaining the standard of living and earning of senior citizen and parents. Children who earn more should provide more maintenance amount.
● The bill gives the right to children and relatives to file appeal against the decisions of Tribunal.
● The bill removes the provisions for creating old age homes and brought new provision ie, creating senior citizen care homes. The care homes can be set up by government or any other private organizations. These homes should be registered under State Government and also Central Government will lay down certain minimum standards for these homes.
● According to this Bill, both government and other private hospitals should provide facilities to senior citizens. Senior citizens with disabilities will give home care facilities.
● The bill provides that any application filed by a senior citizen above the age of eighty years should dispose within sixty days.
● The bill provides provisions for the creation of a ‘nodal officer’ and whose qualification will be not below the rank of assistant sub-inspector and this nodal officer handle the issues relating to parents and senior citizens. The bill provides creation of help line number for communicating the problems faced by senior citizens.
● The bill increases the punishment for abandoning parents or senior citizen. The imprisonment increases to between three and six months and also fine increases upto ten thousand.
● There will be punishment for violation of law. Imprisonment for a term of three months or fine of five thousand rupees or both would be there.
● Dattatrey Shivaji Mane v. Lilabai Shivaji and ors
In this case Bombay High Court highlighted the objective of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 and held that according to Section 4 of Act, eviction of both children and grandchildren is possible and senior citizen can apply for such relief if she/he is unable to lead a normal life.
● Senior Citizen Welfare Organization v. State of Uttarakhand
In this case Uttarakhand High Court held that ‘every senior citizen has the right to live with dignity’. Here Uttarakhand State Government failed to maintain old age homes for senior citizens. In this Case High Court issued mandatory directions for establishment and also for maintenance of old age homes in India.
● Sandeep Gulati v. Divisional Commissioner
In this Case, the Delhi High Court held that a senior citizen has the right to evict the children from property even if there is no ill treatment.
Other Schemes for Senior citizens
There are several schemes which promotes the welfare of senior citizens. The first one National Old age pension scheme which provides pension to senior citizens who belongs to Below Poverty Line.
There is also concession of thirty percentage and fifty percentage in railway fair to senior citizens. Likewise there is also concession for senior citizens in National Carrier and Air India.
Senior citizens also gets several tax benefits under Tax law also.
Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act is the main legislation which gives provisions for maintenance and also for the well being of senior citizens. Senior citizens has the right to live with human dignity. It is our duty to protect parents and senior citizens and their contributions to the society is huge. We should respect them and always make them happy and joyful.
The major problem faced by senior citizens are abuse, which is increasing day by day. The another challenge faced by them are discrimination and also loneliness. The COVID – 19 turned the life of senior citizens miserable and globally they are the persons who are worstly hit by pandemic. In this pandemic situation they needs extra care and attention.
United Nation Secretary – General, Antonio Guterres said that the COVID – 19 is causing fear and miseries to older people across the world. He is also pointed out that pandemic is putting older people to poverty, discrimination and also isolation. It will have an devastating impact on older people in the World. This pandemic also lower the incomes of elderly people.
World Health Organizations is of the opinion that older people in low and middle income countries are more vulnerable to diseases than other countries. Millions of elderly people died of this virus.
According to United Nation, there will be an increase of twenty percent in the elderly population by 2025.
We should put more efforts for protection of our senior citizens and we must see the full diversity of persons within the older person category. There is also need of effective and strong laws for protecting the rights and welfare of senior citizens. It is the duty everyone to protect their rights and in this pandemic situation we should not make them lonely. They need care and attention.
● www.latestlaw.com last visited on 1/12/2020, 9.00pm
● www.legalservicesindia.com – laws for Senior Citizens in India, last visited on 30/11/2020,2pm
● www.thehindu.com – Bill introduced in Lokh Sabha on welfare of senior citizens, parents
Visited on 2/12/2020,8pm
● blog.ipleaders.in -What are the Rights of Senior Citizens? Last visited on 2/11/2020, 9.00pm
● The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007
● The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019
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