12 Sep 2023 4:26 AM GMT
Observing that the denial of access to one's own house amounts to denial of basic amenities, the Bombay High Court upheld the Senior Citizens Maintenance Tribunal’s order revoking two gift deeds executed by an elderly woman in favour of her son and directed the son and daughter-in-law to vacate the subject property.Justice Sandeep V Marne held so upon finding that the son had failed to...
Observing that the denial of access to one's own house amounts to denial of basic amenities, the Bombay High Court upheld the Senior Citizens Maintenance Tribunal’s order revoking two gift deeds executed by an elderly woman in favour of her son and directed the son and daughter-in-law to vacate the subject property.
Justice Sandeep V Marne held so upon finding that the son had failed to perform his duty to provide basic amenities and physical needs to his widowed mother.
“The Gifts were executed out of natural love and affection towards son, which was the only possible consideration for execution thereof. Inbuilt in such love and affection is the duty of the son to provide basic amenities and physical needs to the widowed mother. The events that have occurred post execution of gift deeds so indicate that such love and affection between the Mother and son no longer exists. Along with love and affection, the son has perhaps failed to perform the duty of providing the basic amenities and physical needs to his mother. It was never son’s property. He had no right to seek gift thereof”, the court observed.
The court thus dismissed a petition filed by Ashwin Khater and his wife challenging the tribunal’s order in favour of his mother.
“This may not be an irreversible situation in every case. Mother’s love and affection can be won back. At the moment, however, the extreme measure of restoration of gifted properties to Mother, in my view, was warranted in the facts and circumstances of the case”, the court added.
Urvashi Khater had filed an application under Sections 4, 5, and 23 of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act before the tribunal. In her pleadings, Urvashi had alleged that her son Ashwin threatened her to execute the gift deeds while her husband was in the ICU. Further, she claimed that the petitioners denied her access to her own residential bungalow, which she had occupied for 30 years.
She also alleged that her personal belongings were removed from her room without her knowledge or permission. She mentioned an incident in 2018 when her son allegedly abused her while he was intoxicated. She alleged that after her husband's death, she was left without a residence due to disputes with the Petitioners and had to stay in a rented flat.
The tribunal, partly allowing the application, declared two Gift Deeds transferring her share in properties to her younger son Ashwin null and void, granted access to the mother in the bungalow, and restrained them from causing mental or physical agony to her. The prayer for monthly maintenance along with medical expenses was not granted. The petitioners filed the present petition challenging the tribunal's order.
Advocate Mayur Khandeparkar for the son argued that the annulment of the gift deeds contradicts Section 23 of the Act, as the Gift Deeds were not executed on the condition that the son would provide basic amenities and physical needs. He further argued that the mother failed to provide any evidence that basic amenities or physical needs were denied to her by Petitioners despite the tribunal's authority to take evidence. He also contended that the elder son Avinash instigated their mother to file false complaints.
Advocate Simil Purohit for the mother submitted that condition of providing basic amenities and physical needs need not be explicitly specified in Gift Deeds. He further argued that the younger son Ashwin is withholding original property documents and benefiting unfairly from the properties owned by the mother.
Section 23 of the Act provides that a transfer of senior citizen’s property via Gift or other otherwise can be declared void if the transfer is subject to the condition that the transferee will provide basic amenities and physical needs to the transferor, and the transferee fails to do so.
The court relied on Supreme Court judgment in Sudesh Chhikara v. Ramti Devi and held that that such a condition need not be explicitly stated in the deed itself but could be established before the tribunal. The court noted that the mother's application contains specific pleadings that the Gift Deeds were executed based on assurances that the petitioners would take care of her for her entire life.
The court further held that while oral evidence could be presented before the tribunal, it is not necessary in every case, especially when there are specific pleadings and material supporting the existence of a condition. The tribunal is not expected to conduct a trial like a civil court, the court observed.
“Existence of such a condition can also be gathered from circumstantial evidence that the Mother was residing in the Bunglow for 30 long years and within 5 months of her husband’s demise, she thought of gifting that bunglow to her son, without knowing that a day would come when she would be out of her own house. A Mother executing gift of her residential bunglow in favour of her son is bound to expect that the son would let her reside in that bunglow. Therefore existence of condition of providing the basic amenity to permit mother to reside in the bunglow is required to be assumed in the facts and circumstances of the present case”, the court added.
The court held that merely because the mother receives certain regular income does not mean that there is no failure on part of the son to provide basic amenities and physical needs to her. Definition of the term ‘maintenance’ is not restricted only to giving money but also includes providing food, clothing, residence and medical attendance and treatment, the court said.
The court rejected the argument that her elder son had instigated the mother's actions, observing that her allegations were supported by documents, and the alleged instigation was not a sufficient reason to dismiss her case.
The court noted that the tribunal’s finding of mental and physical torture is based on the position that she was made to leave her own residential Bungalow where she was residing for 30 long years and has emotional connection with, and refused to interfere with this finding.
The court upheld the liberty granted by the tribunal to the mother to file complaint before the Police Station in case of violation of its directives. This is granted as a deterrent to petitioners and to ensure that the mother does not have to undertake detailed litigation for every act of neglect, the court observed.
Thus, the court upheld the tribunal's decision to revoke the gift deeds, evict the petitioners, and injunct them from mentally or physically torturing her. The court however, continued the interim order granting status quo for six weeks.
Case no. – Writ Petition No. 6022 of 2022
Case Title – Ashwin Bharat Khater v. Urvashi Bharat Khater
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