The Union government is set to introduce a legislation to triple the monthly amount that is to be paid to parents and senior citizens, neglected or abandoned by their children, increasing it from Rs 10,000 a month to Rs 25,000-Rs 30,000 a month. The Centre will move amendments to the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, to increase the amount awarded to senior citizens (above the age of 60) and parents (irrespective of their age) of children who are not minors.
“There are many who earn enough and can spare more than Rs 10,000 to provide for their parents. This is why we decided to increase the upper limit,” said Latha Krishna Rao, Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, adding that the amendment is likely to be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament. Non-payment of monthly maintenance can be punished with imprisonment of up to three months as per existing law.
Children or legal heirs, who have sufficient means, are legally obliged to provide for their parents/ senior citizens. Under the current law, parents or the elderly, who are unable to earn their own maintenance and are abandoned or neglected, can make an application to the subdivisional magistrate (SDM) against their children or relatives who are to inherit their property. The SDM, who acts as a tribunal, passes an order directing the children or relatives to pay the monthly allowance of up to Rs 10,000.
The ministry will also make it mandatory for all agencies and private firms, which presently follow varying age criteria, to uniformly observe 60 years or above as the age at which a person should be considered a senior citizen. “We felt that it is necessary to have a standard age of 60 years everywhere, from the railways to airlines and insurance firms,” said Rao, adding that there are an estimated 11 crore people over the age of 60. For the purposes of rebate on fares, the railways considers the age for males as 60 years and females as 58 years, while the definition of senior citizen varies for different insurance companies and airlines.
Based on the recommendations of a committee set up earlier this year following various court orders, the Centre has also proposed a few other amendments to the law. At present, only parents or senior citizens can appeal to the district magistrate or divisional commissioner in case they find the order passed by the SDM unsatisfactory. A proposed amendment will be to also give children the right to appeal. Another would be making it mandatory for the state government to set up at least one old age home for 150 people in each district; the existing 350 such homes in India are mostly NGO-run.
The panel also considered two other issues but decided against including them in the new law. One of them is allowing lawyers to argue the case as opposed to the existing practice of only letting senior citizens directly approach the tribunal. Another recommendation was that any self-acquired property belonging to senior citizens, which has been gifted to their children/ legal heirs, cannot be sold by the latter unless they have a no-objection certificate from the senior citizen. A Kerala High court Order last year had said that a gift deed by a senior citizen, even without a welfare clause, is revocable if the recipient fails to provide for his/ her maintenance.