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Introduction

Ageing is a natural phenomena, beyond the control of living beings. Everyone has the right to live with dignity and respect. It is the ageing process that makes a person old and they are not able to perform the functions of life as before in their old age. The old age brings in several challenges which also includes the inability to perform economic functions. In the recent years, there have been several cases of exploitation of senior citizens and subjecting them outside their homes. Since then the government is taking initiatives to formulate laws to protect the rights of the Senior Citizens. It is the foremost duty of the childrens and the legal heirs to support the senior citizens of their families. There have been a legislation passed in this behalf, Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. Intergenerational equity is regarded as a part of Natural Justice. Measures are being taken at the International level to safeguard the senior citizens of the World. As the Indian Population is increasing continuously, so is the senior population in the Country.

Issues of Senior Citizens

There are immense number of issues with regard to the life of senior citizens ranging from physical and economic disability. The problems are as mentioned below –

  • Economic Issues – Due to the seniority, there is no employment for the senior citizens. They don’t have any income of their own and totally rely on others for their needs. Most of the Senior Citizens are subjected to economic insecurity.
  • Physical concerns – Due to ageing they develop certain health issues which require immediate treatment. There is deficiency in the nutrition of old people.
  • The elder abuse making them homeless leads to certain psychological issues within.
  • Lack of medical treatments and essential medication have also been significant factors.

Indian Laws for the Senior Citizens

The Constitution of India is considered the law of the land. This law also enumerates provision with regard to the protection of the senior citizens of the Nation. Mainly, Chapter V of the Constitution which states the Directive principles of State Policy enumerates various provisions that are to be followed by the State while framing laws. It aims at establishing a Social Welfare State in the Country.

Article 41 – As per this Article, The State shall make effective provision for securing the right to work and to public assistance in unemployment for the senior citizens, sickness and disablement. [1]

National policy for older persons, 1999

As per this policy, certain rights were granted to the older persons. Some of them are as follows –

  • All senior citizens above the age of 60 years are granted 30 percent cut on ticket fares of Indian Railways. And for the women above 60 years, the concession was 50 percent. And a separate counter was to be established to facilitate services to the senior citizens.
  • With reference to Air travel, special provisions have been made in order to help the senior citizens. Air India has granted a concession of 45 percent to the old people.
  • The various religions provide for the maintenance of the old people by their children and legal heirs. As per the Hindu law, Section 20 of Hindu adoption and Maintenance Act, it says that a Hindu during his lifetime is bound to maintain his or her aged or infirm parents. Similarly, islam, Christianity also provide for the maintenance of the senior citizens.
  •  In the Income Tax Act, provisions have been made in order to help the senior citizens. As per Section 88 of the Act, a senior citizen can claim discount on the tax.
  • The policy states that the old persons as a resource. They serve useful functions into the family and outside. It states that opportunity and facilities shall be provided so that they may serve well.
  • Old persons are subject to criminal activities. They become the targets even within their own family and due to emotional and physical abuse are forced to give up their ownership rights.
  • Police shall be employed to look after the older couples and single person living alone. All information and advices must be made available to the older persons.
  • There must be easy disposal of complaints made by the older people relating to fraud, cheating and other matters. There must be a proper machinery to fulfill the objective.
  • Not only the government should endeavour to protect the rights of the senior citizens but also the private NGOs shall also work to protect the rights of the senior citizens of the country.
  • There are several schemes being implemented under the Life Insurance Corporation of India which provides benefit to the old aged  person like Jeevan Dhara Yojana and Senior Citizen Unit Yojana etc.

Code of Criminal Procedure

As per the Code of Criminal Procedure, Sec 125 provides for the maintenance of old parents. It says that any person who has a sufficient means to maintain his father or mother, who are incapable of maintaining themselves, then the person has to maintain his father or mother as per the order of the magistrate. The magistrate may order a monthly sum of money to be paid to such father or mother.

International Measures taken to protect the Old Aged People

Many a times issues were raised in the U.N regarding the rights of the Senior Citizens. The General Assembly in 1991 adopted the United Nations Principles for Older Persons whereby the assembly appreciated the contribution of the old aged people to the world. The general assembly asked the governments to implement the following principles as enumerated below-

  • The old person should have access to adequate food, water, shelter etc.
  • Old people should have equal opportunity to work or to have access to other income generating opportunities.
  • Old person should reside at his own home as long as possible.
  • Seniors must remain integrated in the society and must participate actively in all activities.
  • They are also empowered to form associations of older persons.
  • Old people shall be benefited from the family and community care.
  • They shall have equal access to social and legal services in order to protect themselves.
  • Old people shall live their life with dignity and free of exploitation.

Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007

This act was passed by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in order to facilitate maintenance and welfare of senior citizens in the country. It necessitates the maintenance of senior citizens by their children and legal heirs through a monthly sum. This act makes it easier for the old people to claim maintenance easily. The act also makes a provision for the establishment of old age homes for providing maintenance to the old and senior citizens.

As per the Act, senior citizen means an Indian who has attained the age of 60 years or more. And Children includes Son, daughter, grandson, grand daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law etc.

Maintenance under the Act

Under this Act, any person who is a senior citizen and is unable to maintain himself through his income or property shall be entitled to get maintenance under the act. It is an obligation for the children to maintain their parents including both father and mother. In case the children are not maintaining their parents or seniors then the parents or the senior concerned may claim maintenance to the tribunal established under the act. In case the parents or the senior is not in the state to file a case then any other person or organisation may file a case to the tribunal on his behalf.

The tribunal has the power to take the cognizance Suo Moto of the case. The tribunal must issue a notice to the children or legal heirs after the receipt of the application of the case. The Tribunal shall dispose of the application within 90 days from the date of issuing notice or may further extend the period to the maximum of 30 days.

If the children does not comply with the order of the tribunal or if they fail to pay the said compensation asked to be paid by the tribunal, the tribunal may issue a warrant and may sentence the person for an imprisonment of a period upto one month or till the maintenance is paid. The evidences of the case are to be taken in the presence of the children or person at fault. The maximum amount that can be ordered by the tribunal to be paid must be upto ten thousand rupees. The tribunal may alter, change or cancel the order passed by it.

Protection of Property under the Act

 After the Act has come into operation and the senior citizen has given some property to a person by way of gift on the term that the person would provide him with the basic necessities. If the person fails to comply with the terms of the gift. Then the gift shall be deemed to have been taken by fraud, coercion and undue influence. The senior citizen may also reclaim the property if the person fails to comply with the terms of the gift.

If a person who takes care of a particular senior and  abandons the senior citizen from his property then it is regarded as a criminal offence. Here the person at fault would be punishable for a term which may extend up to 3 months and a fine which may extend up to five thousand rupees. [2]

Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019

This bill was introduced in the Loksabha by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment. The bill seeks to amend the Maintenance and Welfare of parents and senior citizens Act, 2007. The major amendments are as follows –

  • Definition – The term Children as per the act refers to children and grandchildren which does not include minors. The bill also includes step children, adoptive children and legal guardians of minor children in the definition of children. The act adds biological, adoptive and step parents in the definition of parents.
  • As per the provision of maintenance when the tribunal orders a child to pay the maintenance to the parents and senior. Previously the time period for paying the maintenance was 30 days. But, now this period has been reduced to 15 days.
  • As per the amendment, now the children or legal heirs as well as the parents or senior may now appeal the decision given by the tribunal.
  • In the case of abandonment of old people, previously it was punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months and a fine upto five thousand rupees. Now the bill has amended the imprisonment and fine , the imprisonment has been extended b/w three months and six months and the fine has been increased upto ten thousand rupees. Failure to pay fine may lead to imprisonment of one month.
  • The bill also proposes the establishment of old age homes not just by the State Government but also proposes to be established by government and private agencies. The policies of the old age homes are to be made by the Central Government.
  • Every police station shall have one officer who shall deal with the grievances of the old and senior citizens in every district.
  • There shall be a maintenance officer who shall represent the old or senior people in the tribunal proceedings.
  • There shall be essential facilities available to all old age and senior citizens not only in government hospitals but also private hospitals and organization. [3]

Conclusion

Nobody can regulate the ageing process in a person’s life. We should all respect and provide all essential amenities and facilities to the old and senior citizens of the nation. Helping the senior citizen does not require us to be connected with ties of blood. But, it’s our legal duty to protect the old and senior citizens of the country. Many laws and international actions are being taken to safeguard the rights of the senior citizens. In India, many legislations are being made to safeguard the senior citizen of the Nation.

By – Satyam Mishra

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