The Madras High Court has held that senior citizens can reclaim property transferred to their children or any other transferee if the latter fails to ensure a life of dignity for the senior citizen, even if there was no express condition to maintain the senior citizen in the transfer agreement.
In an order passed on September 8, Justice SM Subramaniam said that the term ‘subject to condition’ employed in Section 23(1) of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 must be understood “holistically” to interpret an “implied condition to maintain the senior citizen.”
Therefore, Section 23(1) can be invoked to cancel a property transfer or gift deed, even if there is no express or explicit condition that the transferee should provide basic amenities and take care of the basic physical needs of the transferor (senior citizen or parent of the transferee), the Court said.
Section 23 deals with grounds on which the transfer of property by senior citizens can be quashed or held void.
One such ground to set aside the property transfer is if the transferee fails to adhere to a “condition” to provide for the basic amenities and basic physical needs of the senior citizen.
Justice Subramaniam observed that the phrase “subject to condition” in this Section should not be understood to mean that the gift or settlement deed transferring a senior citizen’s property to their child should contain an express condition.
Rather, this provision entails an implied duty on the transferee to maintain the senior citizen, the Court has held.
“The phrase “subject to the condition that the transferee shall provide the basic amenities” does not mean that the Gift or Settlement Deed should contain any such condition expressly. ‘Subject to the condition’ as employed in Section 23(1), is to be holistically understood with reference to the subsequent phrase i.e., ‘deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or undue influence’. Both the phrases would amplify that the deeming clause should be considered so as to form an opinion that the phrase “subject to condition” amounts to an implied condition to maintain the senior citizen and any violation would be sufficient for the purpose of invoking Section 23(1) of the Act, to cancel the Gift or Settlement Deed executed by the senior citizen,” the Court said.
The Court was hearing a petition filed by one Mohammed Dayan who had challenged an order of the Tirupur district revenue authorities that cancelled a property settlement deed executed by his mother.
The deed was cancelled following a complaint by Dayan’s mother where she alleged that Dayan had failed to fulfil a promise made at the time of the property transfer to take care of his elderly parents.
Dayan’s mother claimed that he was now forcing his parents to leave their family home, and was refusing to pay for their basic needs and medical expenses.
The Court, therefore, dismissed Dayan’s petition and upheld the decision to cancel the property settlement deed.
“The facts established would be sufficient enough for arriving an inevitable conclusion that the fourth respondent (the petitioner’s mother) is entitled for the relief as rightly granted by the respondents 1 and 2 and there is no infirmity or perversity in respect of the order impugned,” the Court said.
Advocate K Sudhakar appeared for the Mohammed Dayan, the petitioner- son.
Advocate T Venkatesh Kumar and Special Government Pleader N Manokaran appeared for the respondent-district authorities.