The government on Wednesday will examine the possibility of allowing lawyers to appear before a tribunal, constituted under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (MWPSC) Act, 2007, on behalf of senior citizens who are not provided maintenance or abandoned by their children.
Under the existing provisions of the Act, senior citizens who are not being maintained by children, neglected or abandoned can directly approach the tribunal.
“Under the Act participation of an advocate in the proceeding either for the applicant or respondent is barred. If the applicant is incapable of making an application, an NGO can make an application on his or her behalf,” said an official from the ministry of social justice and empowerment.
The need for reviewing the legislation has arisen after the Punjab and Haryana and Madras high courts have, in different orders, said that the Centre reconsider some provisions of the Act,
“The courts felt that Section 16 of the Act needs to be amended to allow children or relatives of the elderly people to also file appeals before the Appellate Tribunals.
“Under the current Act, the right to appeal has been given only to the applicant (parent or senior citizen) and the same is not available to the respondent (son, daughter or relative etc).
“The courts especially cited that Section 17 of the Act which prohibits representation by legal practitioners by any party before the tribunal or appellate tribunal, needs a re-look,” the official said.
The courts also asked the ministry about dispensing with the current system of SDMs acting as tribunals and DMs acting as appellate tribunals under the Act, as the tribunals may involve mixed questions of fact and law to be decided. The courts observed that this can be discharged by a legally trained person.
According to sources, the ministry had constituted a committee to review the Act in January which differed on all these points.
“The objective behind framing the rules of the Act was to provide inexpensive and speedy justice to the senior citizens of the country. But allowing lawyers would mean it may take years or prolong a case. Engaging lawyers would also involve expenses. If lawyers are allowed, the entire spirit behind the legislation will be lost,” the official said.
The social justice ministry’s national consultation on Wednesday involves stakeholders such as senior citizens’ associations, state governments and central ministries, bar council of India, national law commission of India. The ministry will seek suggestions of stakeholders on whether the Act should be reviewed.
The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 makes it a legal obligation for children and heirs to provide maintenance to senior citizens and parents, by monthly allowance.