NEW DELHI: Taking note of the often under-reported abuse of elders, the Centre may increase prison term for people abandoning or abusing parents to "up to six months", from the present three under the law, to ensure maintenance of senior citizens.
Tribunals may also be empowered to sentence children to prison for a month for violating an order to pay maintenance allowance to parents or senior citizens. The new provisions form part of draft amendments to the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 that the social justice ministry has placed on its website for comments and suggestions.
Surveys have shown that abuse of elders is more prevalent than might be estimated previously as it is often not reported - due to social stigma or emotional pressures as also the relatively dependent condition of many senior citizens.
A survey report by Help-Age India last year showed that 44 per cent of elderly people said they were ill-treated in public while another said verbal taunts and physical assaults in homes were not uncommon, being reported by close to one-third of respondents. The surveys are largely conducted in urban areas and rural homes, where young adults have often migrated for work and the elderly face more challenges.
In the present law, a person is liable to be punished for three months for an action seen as intended to abandon a parent. The draft also suggests that the age of 60 be considered uniformly for defining senior citizens and making them eligible for any schemes or support targeted at the elderly.
In the changes proposed, the government has proposed that abandoning or abusing a parent will result in a minimum sentence of three months which could go up to six months. The amendments also propose to broaden the definition of "children" from son, daughter, grandson and granddaughter to include sons-inlaw and daughters-in-law.
Brought under UPA, the law provides for tribunals to hear a complaint and order children to take care of their parents or pay monthly allowances of up to Rs 10,000 to them.