Universally within the society, the well-being of their children is the primary concern of the parents. Afterwards, when the parents become old, it should be the children’s time to take care of their elderly parents. Those who are above sixty years of age are regarded as ‘elderly’. Sixty years and above makeup the elderly section of any demography. Bangladesh also follows this age related criterion. The ancient joint family structures which are breaking down due to socio-economic causes have contributed comprehensively to the diminishing of the familial support system in the society affecting both the children and the elderly.
Being concerned regarding the social safety of the elderly in the society and to face the ageing issue of world population, the government legislated the Maintenance of Parents Act 2013. By this Act adult children are liable for the care and upkeep of their elderly parents. The continuance of Parents Act 2013 has made it a punishable offence for the children if they fail to fulfil particular obligations and responsibilities to their parents as narrated in the Act.
As a consequence, the Maintenance of Parents Act 2013 is the most progressive law in Bangladesh. Though the Maintenance of Parents Act 2013 has some positive sides, however, it does have some drawbacks. First of all, the act only imposes on the biological parents and does not include the step parents. In pursuance of the act, only parents have rights to file accusations. There is no scope for the grandparents to file any accusation. The act does not evidently describe the circumstances, if parents failed to fulfil their responsibilities, in that case, whether the child is still bound to pay for the maintenance. If the parents do not live together with the children, then every child must provide enough and logical amount for maintenance from their gross. But the amount also remains obscure to be ascertained.
Meanwhile, in the midst of the Asian territories, India and Singapore could be best examples where parental maintenance has been made legally compulsory for the children. In India, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007, explicates the term 'parents' as father or mother whether biological or step father or step mother. In conformity with the same Act, children means son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter. The Indian Court has the right to allocate the minimum and maximum amount of maintenance considering the situation. Father or mother or anyone can file the application. If anyone is unable to do so, the application can be made by any other person or organisation authorised by the victim. Even Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens (Rectification) Bill 2018, secure better care and safeguard for the senior citizens. According to the 2018 Act, the daughter-in-law and son-in-law of elderly persons would be liable to take care of them.
No matter what, new and more harsh laws are not often the only solution to recover from this crisis. It is our righteous duty to care of our senior citizens so that they can pass their old age with admiration, passion and safety. Looking at the positive aspects of the Act, it can be ensured that, if the Act is properly rectified and applied, it will bring prosperity to many unlucky parents of our country.
The writer is a Barrister-at-Law