The Bombay High Court in its recent order directed a Mumbai resident and his wife to vacate his elderly parents’ flat within a month. The high court cited the Senior Citizens Act that mandates children or relatives are obligated to cater to the needs of the senior citizens so that they ‘live a normal life’, free of any harassment.
The high court observed that the man and his family were living on his 90-year-old father’s property (which has been gifted by him to his daughter) against the parent’s wishes was ‘harassment’ and defeated the parents’ right to a ‘normal life.’ Accordingly, the court dismissed the son’s appeal against the Maintenance Tribunal order asking him to vacate the premises.
The parents – father aged 90 years and mother aged 89 years – had approached the Maintenance Tribunal, against the harassment by their son. The Tribunal ordered the son and his family to vacate the flat in which his elderly parents were residing.
Challenging the Tribunal’s order, the son and his family filed a writ petition before the High Court.
Arguments by Son & His Wife
The son and his family argued the plea on two grounds. First, they claimed that since a local court had already passed an order in the 89-year-old mother’s favour not to dispossess her from the house under the Domestic Violence Act, the elderly couple was precluded from approaching the senior citizen’s tribunal. Moreover, since the elderly parents had gifted the flat to the daughter, it could not be called the their own property to invoke section 4 of the Act.
Arguments by Parents
The counsel for the parents argued that this was a clear case where the parents at such advanced stage of their lives are tortured and harassed by the petitioner nos. 1 and 2 (son & his wife). He cited instances of inhuman treatment being meted out to the parents to grab the flat.
Bombay High Court
At the very outset, the High Court observed that it was a “sad case” and expressed concern at the “misery of the parents”. The Court held that the several legal proceedings between the parties are the evidence of the feeling of torture and harassment by the parents. Moreover, the property in question is not an ancestral property on which the son can claim any legal right.
Invoking the Senior Citizens Act, the high court said,
Section 4 clearly provide that the obligation of the children or relatives would be to cater to the needs of the senior citizens so that they ‘live a normal life’…this would certainly include within its ambit, protection from any harassment and torture meted out by a son or relative by keeping himself on the premises owned by the senior citizens.
The Court held that the senior citizens would in no manner be precluded approaching the Tribunal, as Section 4 of the Act would include all facets of maintenance. Moreover, the father was not party to the DV proceedings. The court remarked,
It is thus clear that the intention of the legislature in making such provisions in the interest of senior citizens, covers a wide spectrum of the senior citizens rights, which are fundamental to the their very survival and/or livelihood at their old age.
Certainly the Court’s approach cannot be narrow and pedantic in applying the provisions of the Senior Citizens Act to the grievances of the senior citizens falling within the ambit of the said Act.
‘Son is a Son Till He Gets His Wife’
The Court reiterated the old saying about daughters stand by their parents forever, but sons stick around only till they get married. The high court said,
Before parting and having noticed that this is a case where the old parents are suffering at the hands of the only son and daughter-in-law, it appears that there is certainly some element of truth in the popular saying that ‘daughters are daughters forever and sons are sons till they are married’ albeit there would surely be exemplary exceptions.
“Normal Life” under Senior Citizens Act
Section 4 clearly provide that the obligation of the children or relatives would be to cater to the needs of the senior citizens so that they ‘live a normal life’. The words “normal life” as used in these provisions would possess a far deeper and wider concept, deriving its meaning and having a bearing on the fundamental rights of livelihood as guaranteed and enjoyed by senior citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Court also noted that the term “property” under Section 2(f) mean property of any kind, whether movable or immovable, ancestral or self acquired, tangible or intangible and which would include rights or interest in such property.
The argument that the parents could not assert rights in the flat as they had gifted to their daughter was rejected by the Court noting that they had rights and interests in it.
The Court noted that the son was affluent and had properties of his own. Despite that, he was harassing his elderly parents, who just wanted to lead a peaceful life. The court observed,
The present case is a sad story of desperate parents who intend to be in peace at such advanced stage in life. Whether such bare minimum expectations and requirement should also be deprived to them by an affluent son, is a thought which the petitioners need to ponder on.
The Court observed that the the son appeared to be blinded in discharging his obligations to cater to his old and needy parents and on the contrary dragged them to litigation. Noting with anguish, the court concluded,
It is painful to conceive that whatever are the relations between the son and the parents, should the son disown his old aged parents for material gains?
The petitioners (son & his wife) were directed to vacate the flat in question alongwith his family members within a period of ten days from the date or order, failing which as ordered by the tribunal in the impugned order, the respondents shall be evicted with the help of the police.
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