In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court recently observed that senior citizens need to be treated with dignity by their family and it is an obligation of the children to cater to the needs of their parents to live normal life.
"The senior citizens have to be treated with dignity and respect which they deserve. The obligation of the children or relative to maintain a senior citizen/parent extends to the needs of such a citizen so that the senior citizen leads a normal life. The parents should not suffer at the fag end of their life, is the expectation. That this expectation is belied because the maintenance, which is inclusively defined to mean provision for food, clothing, residence and medical attendance and treatment, is denied". - Bombay High Court
Observing this, the Court upheld an order passed by a Senior Citizens Tribunal directing a man and his family to vacate a house he jointly occupied with his 65-year old mother after she complained of neglect and harassment.
A Division Bench of Justices S C Dharmadhikari and R I Chagla passed the order on a writ plea filed by the 65-year old woman’s younger son and his wife challenging the order of the Senior Citizens Maintenance Tribunal, Mumbai Western Suburbs.
The 65-year-old woman, who was a respondent before the High Court, was residing in a flat in Mumbai purchased by her deceased husband. She lived in the flat with her two sons, two daughters-in-law and grandchildren. Her 83-year-old mother was also staying in the same flat.
The Court was was informed that after the death of her husband in 2018, there were disputes between the parties. These disputes led the 65-year old woman to make an application before the Senior Citizens Tribunal.
It was noted that the 65-year old applicant had proceeded on the ground that continuous disputes between the parties were causing nuisance and annoyance to her
Last year, the Tribunal had passed orders directing the younger son and his family to vacate the flat. The younger son, therefore, moved the High Court challenging the Tribunal order.
The senior citizen told the Court that her younger son and his wife had been harassing her for property rights. It was further submitted that her elder son and his wife, who runs a creche in the flat, had been taking care of the woman. It was also informed that her younger son had been harassing his elder brother as well.
In view of the threats received from her younger son, the 65-year old woman submitted that she was anticipating physical harm to her as well as her aged mother. She told the Court that the it had become impossible to live peacefully on account of the continuous harassment.
On the other hand, it was alleged by her younger son (the lead petitioner) that his sister-in-law was illegally running a creche in the flat. He contended that on account of rising property prices in Mumbai, his elder brother and wife wanted to grab a share of the flat. He argued that they, therefore, were trying to forcibly disposes him of the flat and that it was at their instigation that the 65-year old mother had filed her application before the Tribunal.
What the Bombay High Court observed and held
The Bench took serious note of the threats administered to the 65-year old mother by her younger son.
Inter alia, it was pointed out that the Tribunal’s order was uninfluenced by the presence of the elder son and his wife. The foundation of the senior citizen’s case, thus, had nothing to do with their running a creche in the flat, the Court noted. Therefore, it did not agree with the petitioner that the application made by the senior citizen mother was at the behest and instigation of the elder brother and his wife.
The Bench proceeded to emphasise that the 65-year old woman was entitled to move the Tribunal to air her grievances.
“It is always the paramount consideration of the Act that senior citizens should not suffer…the law itself is clear inasmuch as a senior citizen, including a parent who is unable to maintain himself/herself from his/her own earnings or out of the property owned or made, shall be entitled to make an application". - Bombay High Court
While this is the case, the Court also pointed out that the petitioner cannot claim any property rights over the flat during his mother’s lifetime.
“During her lifetime there could not have been any dispute with regard to the right, title and interest in the property.”
With these observations, the Court dismissed the younger son’s writ plea as devoid of merit, opining that the order passed by the Tribunal does not call for interference.
The Court, however, allowed a plea by the petitioner that reasonable time be granted to vacate the flat, bearing in mind the tender age of his two children.
The 65-year old woman had opposed the request, apprehending that the continuing presence of the petitioners would cause nuisance and annoyance to her.
All the same, the Bench opined that the woman should not be insensitive to her own grandchildren. Therefore, it granted the petitioners two months’ time to vacate the premises.
“We, therefore, grant two (2) months’ time to the petitioners to vacate the premises after which, if they do not vacate, they shall suffer all consequences including forcible eviction from the premises. If such an eventuality arises, the local police station shall render all assistance to the senior citizen to enforce and execute the order of the Tribunal.”
Advocates Omprakash Pandey and Aneeta Vasani appeared for the petitioners. The 65-year old mother was represented by advocate Prashant Sawardekar. Additional Government Pleader Uma Palsuledesai appeared for the State Government.
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