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Family Feuds

A senior citizen, a woman, filed a complaint in the Delhi High Court under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act for eviction of her son and daughter-in-law from the premises. The verdict could be a legal landmark for others in similar situations

On February 19, the Delhi High Court, despite disputes regarding property ownership and service of legal notices, ruled in favour of a senior citizen, allowing her application for eviction under Rule 22 of the Delhi Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules, 2009. A single-judge bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad passed this order while hearing a petition filed by a senior citizen. 

The petitioner had approached the Court challenging the order, dated June 28, 2021, passed by the Appellate Authority/Divisional Commissioner rejecting an appeal filed by the petitioner under Rule 22(3) of the Delhi Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules, 2009. The appeal was filed against the order, dated April 4, 2019, passed by the District Magistrate rejecting an application filed under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act. 

In this case, the property Hari Nagar-II, Jaitpur, Delhi, was purchased in the name of the petitioner-woman by way of power of attorney and other documents on August 4, 2003.

The petitioner has three children, one daughter and two sons. The petitioner’s son and daughter-in-law are staying on the first floor of the property in question and the petitioner’s husband is occupying the second floor. The petitioner lives on the ground floor of the property, but she is unable to reside there because of the ill treatment meted out to her by her son and daughter-in-law and is currently residing with her daughter at I-Block, Kalkaji, New Delhi. 

The Court noted that the petitioner and her husband are not on good terms and there are litigations going on between them. It further noted that a suit was filed by the husband along with the son on the file of Additional District Judge, South East District, Saket Courts, New Delhi, for declaration of title and permanent injunction. The suit was, however, dismissed for non-prosecution and an application for restoration of the suit was filed, which is pending. The Court also noted that a maintenance petition was filed by the petitioner against her husband under Section 125 CrPC, and vide order, dated January 28, 2023, passed by the judge, Family Courts, Saket, Delhi, the husband was directed to pay a sum of Rs 10,000 per month to the petitioner.

The petitioner alleged that her son and daughter-in-law broke open the locks of the first floor of the house and forcibly entered the first floor and threw away the belongings of the petitioner and her daughter. The petitioner, therefore, filed a complaint under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act with an application under Rule 22 of the Delhi Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules, 2009, for eviction of the son and daughter-in-law from the premises in question. The petitioner further stated that pursuant to the filing of the complaint, she was assaulted by her son and daughter-in-law and their children, resulting in injuries. The petitioner further stated that a complaint was lodged with SHO Jaitpur and an FIR, dated December 3, 2017, was registered under Section 323 and 506 of the IPC.

The District Magistrate, vide order dated April 4, 2019, held that the ownership of the property in question was not clear, and since the petitioner was claiming ownership of the property on the basis of power of attorney and other documents, her title could not be established. The District Magistrate was of the opinion that various litigations going on between the parties and the police complaints indicate the abject animosity prevailing in the household which is causing mental harassment to the petitioner as well as the respondents.

The District Magistrate also held that the mental stress or physical harassment caused to the respondents cannot be ruled out and hence refused to exercise jurisdiction under Rule 22 of the Delhi Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules, 2009, and did not pass an order of eviction against the respondents.

The order was challenged by the petitioner before the Appellate Authority/Divisional Commissioner. The Appellate Authority also concurred with the order passed by the District Magistrate and rejected the appeal filed by the petitioner. Aggrieved by the order passed by the Appellate Authority, the petitioner approached the High Court.

The Court said that the Senior Citizens Act, 2007, was enacted with the objective to provide a mechanism to secure maintenance and ensure welfare of senior citizens left bereft of support, financial or otherwise. It held that the Act being a social legislation, ought to be construed liberally and its provisions should be implemented in the light of the aims and objectives with which the Act was enacted, which for all intents and purposes in the immediate case aims to ensure that a senior citizen without any semblance of support is not further deprived of the property and there is no threat to their lives.

The Court further said that the Government of Delhi has legislated the Delhi Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Amendment Rules, 2016, in the exercise of powers conferred by Section 32 read with Section 2(i) to the Senior Citizens Act, 2007. Rule 22 of the Delhi Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rule lays down an action plan for protection of life and property of senior citizens. Under Rule 22(3)(1), a senior citizen may make an application for eviction of their son/daughter/legal heirs from their self-acquired or ancestral properties, before the District Magistrate.

The Court also observed that the Senior Citizens Act, 2007, and the rules enacted thereunder as amended from time to time, was aimed at protecting the interests of senior citizens. Rule 22(3)(1) of the Delhi Senior Citizens Rules provides for a comprehensive procedure for eviction from the property of a senior citizen residing in Delhi. Sub-rule (iv) of Rule 22(3)(1) provides that the authority on taking cognizance of a complaint for eviction may initiate summary proceedings and conduct enquiries to satisfy themselves to conclusively order for eviction of a son, daughter or legal heir from the property of a senior citizen, self-acquired or ancestral, on the grounds of non-maintenance and ill treatment.

The Court stated that it is the moral and legal obligation of every son to maintain his mother. In fact, Section 4(2) of the Senior Citizens Act casts an obligation on the children to maintain a senior citizen so that senior citizens may lead a normal life. Though the petitioner has not claimed a right to be maintained, the fact that the Court had passed an order on April 21, 2023, even if it is presumed that it was in the absence of service to the respondents, it is still the obligation of the respondents to comply with the directions passed by the Court. The Court further observed that the Senior Citizens Act is for the protection of the senior citizens, but the same also cannot be used for settling property disputes.

Last year, the Delhi High Court had dismissed a petition filed under Article 226 challenging an order of eviction passed by a District Magistrate in Delhi and affirmed by the Divisional Commissioner, GNCTD (Appellate Authority) under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. The petition was filed by a 90-year-old man along with his 84-year-old wife, seeking eviction of their son and daughter-in-law from the ground floor of their property. 

The senior citizen couple alleged harassment from their son and daughter-in-law over the right to reside on the ground floor, which was also occupied by a school run by the old man’s daughter and wife. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the school was closed, and the senior citizen couple, who were bed­ridden, wanted to reside on the ground floor. However, the son and daughter-in-law objected to this arrangement.

A single-judge bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad emphasised the objective of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, which is to provide inexpensive and speedy protection to senior citizens from ill-treatment and non-maintenance by their children or legal heirs. The bench said that the Act aims to safeguard the life and property of senior citizens, ensuring they have a shelter over their head and can sustain themselves independently without interference from their children or legal heirs.

In 2023, the Allahabad High Court had observed that children are expected to look after their elderly parents properly which is not only a value-based principal, but also a bounden duty as mandated by law. It is often seen that after receiving the property from their parents, the children abandon their old-aged parents. For this purpose, Parliament enacted the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, to uphold the dignity and respect of a senior citizen in old age.

The Division Bench of Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi and Justice Prashant Kumar said this while hearing a plea of an 85-year-old man alleging that he was being mistreated by his children. The petitioner, who is unable to maintain himself, claimed in his petition that he is the owner of the property, and instead of taking care of and giving him emotional shelter in his old age, his sons were harassing him and dispossessing him from his holdings.

The bench said that it is a land of the legendary “Shravan Kumar” who sacrificed his life for his aged blind parents. The traditional norms and values of Indian society emphasize the duty of taking care of elders, and the attitude of children towards one’s parents is considered as a debt owed to them. 

—By Adarsh Kumar and India Legal Bureau

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