As the problem of abuse of the elderly is becoming a serious concern in different parts of the world, many countries are bringing legislation to stop abuse, abandonment and neglect of older people.
The Nitish Kumar-led Bihar Cabinet on Tuesday gave a green signal to a proposal seeking provisions to punish wards of elderly parents who could face jail time over charges of abandonment.
The proposal that was seeking provision to punish “sons and daughters” for not looking after their parents had been submitted by the Bihar social welfare department.
The cases will be lodged on the complaints of the parents and will be registered under the non-bailable section.
The new law does not offer any clarity regarding its implementation.
Analysts say that the so-called new law is just a PR exercise by the CM as a similar law already exists in the law book. Under the existing “Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (MWPSC ), 2007”, children or legal heirs are obliged to ensure the well-being of their parents/immediate elderly relatives through monthly financial support, a National Policy for Older People, 1999, a draft National Policy on Senior Citizens, and Bihar’s own Old Age Pension Scheme.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJ&E) of the Central government has also formulated a draft Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Amendment Bill, 2018. The amended bill takes care of many of the lacunas in the 2007 MWPSC Act to ensure better care and maintenance for the parents and senior citizens. It envisions preventing abuse and abandonment of parents and senior citizens by their kin. It extends to the whole of India except Jammu & Kashmir. Himachal Pradesh has its own act for senior citizens.It applies also to citizens of India outside India.
The provisions of the bill include
- 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.
- 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.
- It extends the definition of maintenance beyond provision of food, clothing, housing, health care to include “safety and security” of the parent.
- Under the provisions of the bill senior citizens Senior citizens can approach a Maintenance Tribunal in case their children neglect or refuse to maintain them.
- 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.
- The Act currently provides an upper limit of Rs 10,000 per month as maintenance amount. 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.
- 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.