Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala is preparing a landmark legislation to protect senior citizens from neglect and cruelty by children and other relatives. The Kerala Senior Citizens Bill, which proposes six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for children or legal heirs abandoning their parents, is currently with the Social Justice Department. The bill was prepared by the Kerala Law Reforms Commission and subsequently cleared by the Law Department.
The bill was mentioned in the recent state Budget. The government is planning to issue an ordinance in this regard soon as the ongoing Assembly session will end on February 15.
According to the bill, children or legal heirs subjecting a senior citizen to cruelty or shifting the latter to a rescue home without consent could be sentenced to jail for up to three years.
The Bill also calls for the setting up of a ‘State Senior Citizens Commission.’ Any elderly person would be able to file a complaint with the commission under ‘Section 4’ of the proposed law if responsible relatives refuse to protect them. Based on the complaint, the commission will conduct an enquiry and mediate with the relatives. If a compromise is not arrived at, the commission will hear both parties and pass suitable orders, except a ‘maintenance order’ which could be issued only by a tribunal which is to be constituted under Section 7 of the proposed ‘Maintenance and Welfare of Senior Citizens Act’.
The Bill says that an order issued by the Commission would be final. The order should be displayed at the commission office and the office of the respective local body.
Children, legal heirs or relatives who fail to obey the commission’s order would have to undergo a jail sentence of up to six months or a fine or both. The fine could be up to Rs 1 lakh. The fine amount will be given to the complainant.
The Bill also says that the Government should ensure that elderly persons do not turn to begging. Such persons should be rehabilitated. Moreover, persons forcing senior citizens to beg will be sentenced to three years in jail and fined.
The Senior Citizens Commission will have three members, headed by a senior citizen who is an expert and has sufficient experience in matters related to elderly people. One member will be a person having legal knowledge and another a woman. The commission members will be appointed for a term of three years. Each member will not be given more than two terms.
An officer not below the rank of Additional Secretary with the government will be appointed as secretary of the commission, which will have its headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram.