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Learn the Legal Protections and State Assistance That Senior Citizens Have in India

According to the Population Census 2011, there are nearly 104 million elderly persons (aged 60 years or above) in India; 53 million females and 51 million males.

An ageing population is a global phenomenon. Elder persons in society face a number of problems due to the absence of assured and sufficient income to support themselves for their healthcare and other social securities. Loss of a social role and recognition and non-availability of opportunities for creative and effective use of free time are also becoming a matter of great concern for elderly persons.

The trend clearly reveals that ageing will emerge as a major social challenge in the future; and vast resources will be required towards the support, service, care and treatment of the elderly persons, according to report titled – Elderly in India, published in the year 2016.

According to the Population Census 2011, there are nearly 104 million elderly
persons (aged 60 years or above) in India; 53 million females and 51 million
males.

In 2007, India enacted The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, with a view to ensure need-based maintenance for parents and senior citizens and their welfare.

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Here are some of the salient features of the Act:

This Act is superior to every other act and has an overriding effect on every other law for senior citizens.

Who can avail the benefits of this Act?
• Senior Citizens – over 60 years of age
• Parents – Mother/Father/Stepfather/Stepmother of any age

Who are Children and Relatives?
• Children could refer to any adult son/daughter and also grandson/daughter
• Relatives – If the senior citizen has no children, then the legal heir, that is one who is either in possession of the property of the senior citizen or would inherit it.
• All children are liable to provide maintenance for their parents.

What is defined as property by the Act?

• Movable or immovable property
• Tangible or intangible property
• Ancestral property as well as self-acquired
• Rights or Interests in such property

In many cases, ancestral property, on which multiple claims may exist, was being used as a loophole to avoid providing maintenance for senior citizens. Now that loophole has been plugged.

What is Maintenance?

Maintenance is the sum of money that a senior citizen gets to ensure their welfare.

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The maximum amount, which may be ordered for maintenance of a senior citizen shall be prescribed by the State Government and shall not exceed Rs 10,000/- per month.

This includes:
• Food
• Clothing
• Residence
• Medical Attendance – the right to have nurses or helpers at home
• Medical Treatment.

Under what circumstances can senior citizens claim maintenance?

Senior citizens can only claim maintenance if they are unable to maintain themselves from property owned or from own earning.

Such claims can be made upon:
• One or more children or grandchildren, who are not minors.
• In case of a childless senior citizen, a relative as defined above

Who can apply for maintenance?

• The senior citizen himself
• Any other person or registered voluntary organisation authorised by them
• The Tribunal itself can initiate an enquiry

Where does one file this application?

The application for maintenance may either be filed in the district where the senior citizen stays or last stayed, or in the district where the child or relative stays.

What is the procedure involved?

Once the application for maintenance under Section 4 has been submitted, the Tribunal will issue a notice to the children.

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They will have the opportunity of being heard. The application must be disposed of within 90 days, with an extension of 30 days under extreme circumstances that need to be recorded in writing. The Tribunal shall determine the amount to be paid, subject to a maximum of Rs 10,000

When should maintenance be paid?

Children are liable to start paying legal costs as well as maintenance from the day of the order, or if so ordered by the Tribunal, from the day that the application was filed. Upon the death of one child, other children continue to be liable. If one of the children dies, their portion of the maintenance must be taken care of by the remaining children. Failure to comply with the order of the Tribunal is punishable with levy of fines, or even imprisonment for up to a month.

While this Act does empower senior citizens and gives them an assurance of being looked after, the real test is only when it actually transpires into tangible action.

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