The Centre has proposed to enhance the jail term for those found abandoning or abusing their parents, 60 years or older, to six months from the existing three months. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizen Draft Bill, 2018, that will amend the 2007 version of the legislation to expand its scope and provide for more stringent penalties.
The Bill expands the definition of children, which currently refers to only biological children and grandchildren, to include daughter-in-law and son-in-law and also adopted/step-children.
It extends the definition of maintenance beyond provision of food, clothing, housing, health care to include “safety and security” of the parent. Senior citizens can approach a Maintenance Tribunal in case their children neglect or refuse to maintain them.
“In such cases, the draft Bill states that the Tribunal can order the children or, in case the person is childless, the relative to pay a monthly maintenance to the senior citizen. The amount would be decided by taking into account the standard of living of the senior citizen and the financial situation of both the parties,” said a ministry official.
The Act currently provides an upper limit of Rs 10,000 per month as maintenance amount. Official sources said the Bill proposes to make this amount variable as people who earn more, can afford to shell out a higher amount for the upkeep of their parents.
The Bill also introduces a punitive measure of up to one month imprisonment in case the monthly allowance remains unpaid.
The official added that the Bill, if passed, will require the government to establish and run at least one Senior Citizen Care Home in every district in the country.
Currently, various government and private schemes for insurance/health, housing and travel, have varied cut-off age for offering benefits meant for senior citizens. The Bill mandates the uniform age across schemes should be 60 years.
Moreover, it states that if parents transfer property to their children on the condition that they take care of them, and this clause is breached, the transfer of property will be deemed to be “made by fraud or coercion or under undue influence” and a tribunal can order it to be transferred back to the parent.
In 2016, the Kerala High Court had stated that even if the gift deed of property by a senior citizen doesn’t have such a welfare clause, the deed can be revoked if the children/legal heir(s) refuse to provide for the former’s maintenance.