As far as people are in their developing age or the socio-cultural changes have undermined the traditional values and elder citizens are in lack of support from their families. There is boost of elder abuse and difficulties in proper care and support. After much number of surveys in India it has been found that the biggest concerns for elder citizens are healthcare costs, elder abuse and impairment in functional activities, lack of financial and emotional support, loneliness or Isolation. For that matter, several countries including India have formed number of legislations for elder citizens, under which the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (MWP) Act, 2007 has been formed which helped in protecting the elders from exploitation.
Evolution of legal measures
Global schemes on era from the United Nations (UN) such as the Vienna International Plan of Action on Ageing,1982 or United Nations Principles for Older Persons, 1991, and The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002. Republic of India may be a participant for these world initiatives. The directive principles of state policy under article 41 of the Indian Constitution provided measures of well being of the senior citizens. With this, in the year 1999, the Indian Government has introduced the national policy for elder people focusing on their well being and ensuring their peaceful life by providing them proper nutrition, health care and welfare.
Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007
This act has been enacted in December 2007 by the Indian Parliament. This contains 7 chapters and 32 sections under which a senior citizen has been defined as any Indian citizen whose age is 60 years or more. This act deals with the issues related to the maintenance of senior citizens, providing them old age homes if needed, provisions for health care services and protecting their lives and property. These are the major issues which need to be settled down for the well being of the senior citizens.
Maintenance of both parents and senior citizens
Social changes like globalization, urbanization and modernization has damaged the families in many ways. The traditional families had their values and accordingly took care of their elders but in today’s scenario it is straining out from the people.
This act provides maintenance for parents and senior citizens under section 4, which says that a senior citizen including a parent can ask for maintenance from their family members if they are not able to maintain themselves. A childless senior citizen can ask from his legal heir who is in possession of or would inherit his property after death.
MWP Act, 2007 simplified the process of maintenance by removing the necessity of a lawyer to represent the case. One can opt for amicable settlement by conciliation officer’s assistance. Complaint can also be filed by an authorized representative or organization.
Jurisdiction and procedure of filing an application
The proceedings under section 5 which is application for maintenance may be taken against any6 children or relative in any district where he resides or last resided or where the children or relative resides. The tribunal has the power of a Judicial Magistrate First Class under CrPC for taking the attendance of children or relative. Tribunal would issue a process or a way to present the person against whom the application has been filed.
All evidences are to be collected and recorded in the presence of the relative or children in a prescribed manner. Where the person against whom the application has been filed is residing out of India, then the summons shall be served by the tribunal as per the central government through notification specifies. Also, the tribunal before hearing an application under section 5 would refer case to a conciliation officer and then he submits his findings within one month.
Issues or challenges for maintenance support
- Financial limit for maintenance: 10,000 has been fixed for the maximum maintenance one can claim because of which it is hindering to those with higher economic capacity and citizens are not claiming maintenance.
- Lack of awareness and stigma: Senior citizens have not that mental capacity and awareness to ask for maintenance. They either unaware of the provisions or feels hesitate to ask for it.
- Delay in completion of appeals in higher courts : Senior citizens who doesn’t have the enough resources are facing difficulties as there is way too delay in completion of appeals in high courts or supreme courts.
Establishment of old age homes
Chapter III of MWP Act, 2007 deals with the issues related to the establishment of old age homes. There is no specific provision for making the State Executive accountable for this. However, majority of old age homes are under private organizations or charitable trusts. Some receives the aid grant from the Government of India or the State Government.
Promoting Medical Care of Senior Citizens
MWP Act, 2007 in chapter IV addressed the need of medical care as it is very important for a senior citizen because of the high prevalence of their mental and physical health. It ensures adequate number of beds in hospitals, separate queues, treatment facilities of chronic, terminal and degenerative diseases.
Amendment to the MWP Act, 2007
There were some changes required to the MWP Act, 2007. On December 4, 2019 the cabinet approved the amendment which some additions. The important features of this amendment act are as follows:
- Step-children, adoptive kids, children-in-law, and also the trustee of minor kids are adscititious.
- The change bill seeks to expand the definition to incorporate minors and that they would be described by their legal guardians.
- Increasing the scope of oldsters, the projected change includes parents-in-law, and grandparents
- The new proposal will increasethe scope to incorporate the supply of tending, safety, and security for fogeys and senior voters to guide a dignified life
- The projected change makes it punishable with imprisonment between 3 and 6 months, or a fine or of up to Rs 10,000 or both.
- In the projectedchange, kids and relatives can also go to the court
- Creation of a national helpline for senior voterswith one common range to market safety and security of senior voters.
Socio cultural changes led to the suffering of the senior citizens. There was no optimal care and well being of the senior citizens because of which this legislation came into force. This act after amendment made various changes for the well being of the elders. The experiences from the last decade of implementation of MPW Act brought out strengths and limitations of this act. To manage the anticipated growth of senior citizens, this system needs to develop appropriate social care systems.