In India, the concept of respecting and caring for elders is deeply ingrained in the culture. To ensure their welfare and maintenance, the Indian government has enacted various laws. Maintenance under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 are two different legal provisions in India, both aimed at providing financial support to certain categories of individuals.. This article will discuss the provisions of the Act and its implications for the welfare of parents and senior citizens in India.
Maintenance under section 125 of the code
According to section 125 of the CrPC, the courts can order maintenance and welfare if the son or daughter denies their parents' maintenance and does not have any means of support. A Magistrate may issue a warrant against a person who fails to pay maintenance to their parents, and that person may also be imprisoned for up to one month or until payment is made, whichever comes first.
The purpose of these proceedings is not to punish an individual for their past neglect. It is for preventing vagrancy from leading to the commission of crimes and starvation by requiring those who can do so to support those unable to do so. No matter what religion a person belongs to, the maintenance provisions of the Code apply to everyone.
Maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizen act, 2007
Under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, a senior citizen or parent who is unable to maintain themselves can approach a Maintenance Tribunal seeking maintenance from their children or relatives. The Tribunal can order the children or relatives to pay a monthly allowance for the maintenance and welfare of the senior citizen or parent.
Below are some of the vital information targeting the maintenance and welfare of parents:
- The Act applies to parents of any age or senior citizens (people above 60 years).
- It is possible to seek maintenance orders against children or relatives who are the legal heirs of the senior citizen.
- The Act also specifies the State Government's establishment of a Maintenance Tribunal.
- Parents can hire lawyers to understand the context when the matter is before the Maintenance Tribunal.
- The process application of maintenance is bound to be disposed of within 90 days of serving notice to the children/ relatives. Under exceptional circumstances, an extension of 30 days may be given.
- As per the Act, the maximum amount payable under the Act is Rs 10,000. After the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Amendment) Act 2019 takes effect, this bar will be removed through a pending bill.
- The State government is also required to establish old homes, starting with one in each district.
- Non-payment of maintenance may result in imprisonment of 3 months or until the amount is paid or a fine up to Rs 5000.
- Section 23 of the Act lays laws regarding declaring certain void property transfers. Generally, it protects senior citizens from financial fraud committed by people in fiduciary relationships. An example would be if a senior citizen gifted their property to another without providing basic amenities and physical needs. In such cases, the transfer is presumed to have been made by fraud, coercion, or undue influence and can be declared void (ineffective) at the senior's discretion.
Who can claim maintenance?
Other than wife and children, parents can also claim maintenance:
- Natural parents can claim maintenance.
- The mother includes the adoptive mother.
- The adoptive mother can claim maintenance from the adoptive son.
- A father is entitled to claim maintenance, a statutory obligation, and the claim can't be defeated by arguing that the father didn't fulfil his parental responsibility.
- A childless stepmother can claim maintenance.
Essential conditions for granting maintenance
Here are a few necessary conditions to be fulfilled for claiming or granting maintenance:
- Adequate means for maintenance are available.
- Neglect to maintain after the demand for maintenance.
- The person claiming must be unable to maintain themselves.
- The quantum of maintenance depends on the living standard.
Families are personal affairs, but unrestricted families' welfare is the authority's responsibility. In the same way, we want every other vulnerable section of society to know their rights; parents and the elderly should also know theirs. It is to be noted that the Act or the Code is not a favour to the parents but a payback transaction of what they have already done for their children.
Apart from discussing the maintenance rights of old parents and senior citizens, the Act proposes provisions such as providing better medical facilities to abandoned parents, setting up old homes, etc. By amending the Act in 2018, the Act is now more robust in protecting the life and dignity of senior citizens and parents.