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"After Receiving Property The Children Often Abandon Parents": P&H High Court Dismisses Illegal Transfer Of Property of Aged Widow

Aaratrika Bhaumik
14 July 2021 6:07 AM GMT
After Receiving Property The Children Often Abandon Parents: P&H High Court Dismisses Illegal Transfer Of Property of Aged Widow
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The Punjab and Haryana High Court last week came to the rescue of a 76 years old widow who had been ousted from her house by her son consequent to the illegal transfer of her house in her son's name. A Bench comprising Justice Augustine George Masih and Justice Ashok Kumar Verma opined on the objective of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (2007 Act)...

The Punjab and Haryana High Court last week came to the rescue of a 76 years old widow who had been ousted from her house by her son consequent to the illegal transfer of her house in her son's name.

A Bench comprising Justice Augustine George Masih and Justice Ashok Kumar Verma opined on the objective of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (2007 Act) in securing the rights of aged parents who are often abandoned by their children.

"It is often seen that after receiving the property from their parents, the children abandon them. In such situation, the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 is an enabling lifeline for such old aged parents and senior citizens who are not looked after by their children and become neglected lots. Section 23 of the Act of 2007 is a deterrent to this and hence is beneficial for the elderly old aged people who are incapable of taking care of themselves in their last phase of life. The children are expected to look after their elderly parents properly which is not only a value based principle but a bounden duty as enshrined within the mandate of the Act of 2007", the Court observed.

Background:

In the instant case, the respondent is an aged widow whose deceased husband had left one house and one shop in her possession in order to ensure her well-being. However, two years after the death of her husband, the widow's youngest son had fraudulently transferred the house left to her in his name. Subsequently, the aged widow was driven out of the house and physically assaulted by her son.

The respondent widow had approached the Panchayat for conciliation proceedings two to three times but it did not yield any result. Consequently, she approached the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) exercising the powers of Presiding Officer, Maintenance Tribunal, Tohana and filed an application under Section 5(1) of the 2007 Act. Accordingly, she prayed for the registry of the house and one shop to be returned to her and for the protection of her life, liberty, and property.

Taking into consideration the grievances of the respondent, the SDM vide order dated August 19, 2019 directed the petitioner to transfer the house in the name of the widow and also provide Rs. 2,000/- per month as a subsistence allowance to his mother. The transfer deed dated September 4, 2015 was also ordered to be canceled vide which the shops rightfully belonging to the widow was illegally transferred in the petitioner's name.

Aggrieved by this order, the petitioner had filed an appeal before the Appellate Tribunal chaired by District Collector, Fatehabad. The Appellate Tribunal partially reversed the findings of the SDM by restoring the cancellation of the transfer deed but ensuring that the widow is paid maintenance by the petitioner and is allowed to reside in her house.

Consequently, the respondent widow had filed a writ petition seeking the setting aside of the impugned order dated February 12, 2020 of the Appellate Tribunal. The writ petition filed by the widow had been allowed by the Single Judge of the Court vide impugned order dated April 24, 2021 wherein the order passed by the SDM was directed to be maintained in totality. Accordingly, the petitioner has filed the instant Letters Patent Appeal against the impugned order of the Single Judge.

Observations:

The Court observed that the contention of the petitioner that the SDM had passed an order that encapsulated relief beyond what was asked by the respondent is wholly misconceived. The Court noted that the respondent in her plea before the SDM had mentioned that her son had driven her out of the house by fraudulently transferring the house in his name. Further, Section 5(1)(c) of the 2007 Act empowers an SDM to take suo moto cognisance of a case.

"In the presence of such enabling provisions, it cannot be said that the SDM has acted arbitrarily beyond its jurisdiction and granted relief beyond the relief asked for by respondent No.1- Ishwar Devi", the Court opined.

Enumerating upon the objective of the welfare legislation, the Court observed,

"The Parliament enacted the Senior Citizens Act to uphold the dignity and respect of a senior citizen at the time of old age. State had serious concern about the challenge faced by the people in their old age. Apart from physical vulnerabilities, they face emotional and psychological challenges. On account of these frailties, they are totally dependent. The moral law formulated through the legislation is necessary to rationalise the well being of all in the society. The moral values that prevailed in the society in the past have been accepted as universal values. The State in its wisdom, considering the acceptance of these values, seeks to promote the common good through the Senior Citizens Act."

The Court further opined that the SDM had a detailed, well-reasoned, and speaking order after conducting thorough inspections. The SDM had even interacted with the concerned parties and arrived at the conclusion that the petitioner had neglected his mother and not provided her with the basic amenities despite the house being transferred in his name.

On the contrary, the Court observed that the order passed by the Appellate Tribunal was "evasive, non-speaking and erroneously bad in the eyes of law and such an exercise of power is to be deprecated". Accordingly, the Court concluded that the SDM had rightly exercised his jurisdiction under Section 23 of the 2007 Act and cancelled the concerned transfer deed to protect the interests of the aged respondent.

Opining on the necessity of Section 23(1) of the 2007 Act in safeguarding the interests of aging parents who are often left vulnerable the Court remarked,

"Section 23 (1) of the Act of 2007 explicitly stipulates that in case the children fail to take care of their parents after transfer of their parent's property in their favour, the said transfer of property shall be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or under undue influence and shall at the option of the transferor be declared void by the Tribunal. The provision under Section 23 (1) of the Act of 2007 attempts to provide a dignified existence to the elderly people."

Accordingly, the Court disposed of the petition by upholding the dictum of the Single Judge of the Court in giving effect to the aforementioned directions of the SDM.

Case Title: Ramesh @ Pappi v. Ishwar Devi

Click Here To Read/Download Order

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