Look after your parents and senior citizens in Punjab or go to jail
Chandigarh, January 19 - Days before his son and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal would be sworn in as his deputy, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has given sanction for implementation of the Punjab Maintenance of Parents and Senior Citizens Act. The law provides for efficacious provision of maintenance of elderly people.
According to the Act, parents and senior citizens above 60 years of age can now legally demand sustenance from their wards. And to ensure the rule is followed, the Punjab government has notified setting up one-member tribunals at the sub-divisional level throughout the state.
Defaulting wards or heirs could be fined up to Rs 5,000 or given three months imprisonment or both, depending upon the gravity of the defiance of tribunal orders. Besides, appellate tribunals would be set up at the district level.
The sub-divisional magistrate would have to pass orders within 90 days of the receipt of application. The Act has also been kept free from advocacy, as the aggrieved parents, grandparents or senior citizens can prefer their application before the District Social Welfare Officer, who has been recommended to act as applicant’s attorney before the tribunal.
Notably, Punjab has become the fifth state after Tripura, Maharashtra, Goa and Himachal Pradesh to implement the Act, with retrospective effect from August 27 last year.
Though the Act was notified in 2007, no one took any steps for its implementation in the state till recently when Povit Singh Mattewal, son of Punjab Advocate-General HS Mattewal, visited the Sector 15 old age home and brought to notice of Punjab Chief Minister the plight of some of the inmates there. The Chief Minister wanted a self-explanatory note before giving his clearance today.
In the category of ‘wards’ and ‘heirs’ fall sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, and any relative who is in possession of or would inherit the property of any childless person. This would also bring in its purview cases of those families of defence personnel where son made the supreme sacrifice and their daughter-in-law, after getting all benefits, rehabilitated herself elsewhere or even went in for remarriage.
Once the tribunal is satisfied that a senior citizen — parent or grandparent — is unable to take care of himself and there is neglect or refusal of maintenance on the part of the children or relative, it may direct one or all children or relatives to pay to the applicant a monthly maintenance allowance, the upper limit of which shall be Rs 10,000.
The tribunal has also been empowered to refer the case for conciliation where the conciliation officer may try for an amicable settlement within a month of the application. Orders passed by the tribunal shall have the same legal sanctity as applicable to orders passed under Chapter IX of the code of criminal procedure, which also provides for maintenance of senior citizens. Besides, the tribunal is also empowered to declare a transfer of property void in case it was done under the condition of maintenance and transferee neglected the agreement.
The government would also establish and maintain at least one old age home in each district (with a minimum capacity of 150 inmates) and ensure provision of special beds for senior citizens in all government hospitals.