Ageing is the natural stage of human life. Though, it brings with it innumerable problems for the elderly people. As population becomes increasingly aged, Parliament of India enacted a historic and landmark law The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (MWPSC), 2007 to ensure need based maintenance for parents and senior citizens and their welfare. The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Bill, 2019 amends the provisions of the 2007 Act in order to make it more contemporary and effective.
The 2007 act:
- The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens act, 2007 seeks to make it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens. It also permits state governments to establish old age homes in every district.
- Senior citizens who are unable to maintain themselves shall have the right to apply to a maintenance tribunal seeking a monthly allowance from their children or heirs.
- State governments may set up maintenance tribunals in every sub-division to decide the level of maintenance. Appellate tribunals may be established at the district level.
- State governments shall set the maximum monthly maintenance allowance. The Bill caps the maximum monthly allowance at Rs 10,000 per month.
- Punishment for not paying the required monthly allowance shall be Rs 5,000 or up to three months imprisonment or both.
Key Issues and Analysis
- It is unclear whether the creation of maintenance tribunals will ensure financial independence for senior citizens, or whether parents will likely take their children to court to obtain a maintenance allowance from them.
- The definition of senior citizen includes both Indian citizens aged over 60 years, and all parents irrespective of age. Also, the Bill does not address the needs of senior citizens who do not have children or property.
- Relatives are obliged to provide maintenance to childless senior citizens. The Bill defines “relative” as someone who is in possession of or would inherit a senior citizen’s property. As wills are changeable, it is unclear how one would determine who would inherit the property after death.
- Only parents may appeal against the decision of the maintenance tribunal. Neither childless senior citizens nor children are permitted to appeal.
- State governments may establish old age homes and prescribe standards for services provided by them. However, the Bill does not require them to do so.
- The Bill brings step-children, adoptive children, children-in-law, and legal guardians of minor children under the definition of children.
- Under the Act, Maintenance Tribunals may direct children to pay a maximum of Rs 10,000 per month as maintenance amount to their parents. The Bill removes this upper limit on the maintenance fee.
- The Act provides for senior citizens to appeal the decisions of the Maintenance Tribunal. The Bill allows children and relatives also to appeal decisions of the Tribunal.
- The Bill provides that if the children or relatives fail to comply with maintenance orders, the Tribunal may issue a warrant to levy the due amount. Failure to pay such fine may lead to imprisonment of up to one month, or until the payment is made.
- The Bill provides for the regulation of private care-homes for senior citizens, and institutions providing home-care services.