It is necessary to know about senior citizen maintenance application these days as India was known for having big joint families in the earlier days but with growing development and modernization, joint families have started breaking into nuclear families and often elderly parents are left out on their own. Sometimes, these senior citizens are neither capable of taking care of themselves nor do they have financial resources to do so. The problems other insecurities faced by senior citizens are severe in nature and need to be addressed. This kind of situation is growing lately, due to greater migration and neglectful attitude.
There have been reports of physical and monetary abuse, desertion and abandonment listed on news every once in a while. In the current social scenario it is specifically pertinent and relevant to focus on legislative support available for the elderly people and grant them with the rights that they are entitled to.
Hence, in 2007 the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act was enacted with the objective of safeguarding the interests of parents and senior citizens along with their welfare. The Act ensures that the parents are able to receive their need-based maintenance from their children or relatives, if they do not have enough means for maintaining themselves.
In India and other nations, legislation and social interventions required for addressing the concerns of elderly populations poses a tough and stiff challenge for the law-makers, as not many would accuse their children of not taking care of their parents. It is basically rigid and twisted kind of worry for the policy makers to ensure that the ageing people are taken good care. In India, it is more difficult as we have vast population and huge socio-economic divide among the classes.
It is no doubt that the needs of senior citizens are minimal, but with increasing age they often have heavy medical expenditures and require constant attention. Sometimes children and relatives fail to provide such care and facilities to the elderly parents. Due to which the government has introduced the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007.
The act states sections for the maintenance and welfare of the senior citizen and all of these rights are recognized and specified under the Indian constitution and now reiterated by this legislature.
Who can apply for maintenance?
Usually the application for maintenance is made by the victim i.e. Senior citizen or parent, but it has been specified under Section 4 of the Act. The section states that the application can be made to the Tribunal by-
- The parent or senior citizen
- If the parent or senior citizen is not in the condition to file an application and are incapable of doing so, then any voluntary association registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860 or any other Indian law can appeal on behalf of the elderly person
- The tribunal can make a suo moto application on its own
- Parties against whom the application is filed.
As mentioned above, the application can be filed by children also, as the children have a right to implead other children. This provision is mentioned in order to avoid the senior citizen or elderly person from accusing and placing burden on their children particularly and individually irrespective of whatever reasons such as mental, cultural, emotional etc. The Act clearly states that all children are liable for taking care and providing maintenance to their parents or the senior citizen.
The application can be filed against one or more persons, which includes their children or relatives or any other concerned parties. As per this provision, the word “Relative” would signify any legal heir of a childless senior citizen who is not a minor.
What are the conditions to apply for senior citizen maintenance?
Any such senior citizen or elderly person who is incapable of maintaining themselves from their property owned or from their own earnings and savings can demand for maintenance. These kinds of claim can be made upon-
- one or more children or grandchildren who have attained majority
- if the senior citizen is childless, then any relative as mentioned above who is a legal heir of the senior citizen
The Act not only vests rights with the elders but also lays an obligation on the child or the relative, extending and covering the needs of the senior citizen as necessary for them to lead a normal life.
Under Section 17 of the Maintenance and Welfare of the Parent and Senior Citizen Act 2007, the lawyers are forbidden from entering the proceedings of a Tribunal. In the famous case of Advocate KG Suresh v. the Union of India, it was observed that Section 17 of the Act is ultra vires as it violates Section 30 of the Advocates Act 1961 and accordingly permits the advocates to retain their rights to represent the parties before the Tribunal.
How to file senior citizen maintenance application?
The steps to file a senior citizen application are as follows-
- To file a senior citizen application, one needs to submit the application mentioned under Section 4.
- Then the tribunal shall issue a notice in the name of children and hold an enquiry for determining the amount of maintenance required to be paid to the senior citizen. The tribunal will provide the children with an opportunity to be heard.
- The tribunal depending upon the case and needs of the elderly person, may pass an interim maintenance order during the pendency of the proceedings.
- All the evidences to the proceedings shall be taken in the presence of the children or relative against whom the complaint is filed. If the child or relative intentionally prevents service or wilfully neglects to attend the hearing in the tribunal, then the Tribunal will proceed to hear the case as an ex parte order.
- In cases where the children or relative is residing out of India, then the notice shall be served through specified authority as the Central Government may provide.
- The Tribunal before hearing the case of maintenance, may refer the matter to a conciliation officer who has to submit his application within 30 days to the Tribunal regarding the decision and discussion happened between the 2 parties.
- If an amicable settlement is arrived between the two parties in the conciliation proceedings then the tribunal will proceed to pass the order accordingly and if not, then the hearing will be conducted in the tribunal.
- However, it shall be noted that when a parent or senior citizen is entitled to maintenance under Chapter IX of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973 along with this Act, then the maintenance shall be provided only under single act and not under both.
The application made to the tribunal should be disposed within a period of 90 days and maximum extension of 30 days can be provided under extreme situations. It needs to be recorded in writing. The tribunal will decide the amount of maintenance to be paid maximum of Rs 10,000 and it needs to be paid from the date of order.
In case of death of any of the child, then rest of the children will still be liable to pay the maintenance and the portion of the maintenance of the deceased child shall be taken care by the remaining children. If the children fail to comply with the order of tribunal, then he or she shall be liable for levying of fines or even imprisonment for period of 1 month.
Thus, it can be concluded that protecting and aiding to the needs of the senior citizens is not that difficult, but often children get away with it due to migration and nuclear families. This is a growing enigma of society with new ways of modernization which needs to be given attention and solved properly, or else it can have an adverse impact on the lives of our elderly persons who are not having the means or resources to maintain themselves.
The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 was enacted with similar vision to provide help and maintenance to the needy senior citizens, but the major issue is that parents and senior citizens in India do not wish to file an application against their own children and relatives, they would rather beg or borrow from them, but not see the maintenance as their right. Hence, the implementation and effectiveness of the Act needs to be worked upon, and make such senior citizens aware of their rights regarding their own maintenance granted by law.
This article is authored by Rhea Banerjee.