Bombay High Court rules in favour of senior citizens
It often gets complaints from the elderly of harassment by their own sons and daughters
The Bombay High Court has observed that the Maintenance Tribunal can pass an order for the removal of a person from the senior citizen's property.
A division bench comprising Justice Gautam S Patel and Madhav J Jamdar endorsed the view expressed by a division bench of the Delhi High Court. It had been laid down that the Maintenance Tribunal, under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, could pass an order of eviction.
The bench also approved the view expressed by a single bench of the Bombay High Court that an eviction order could be passed for the 'protection' of the senior citizen.
The court rejected the petitioner's argument that the Delhi High Court's decision was based on the fact that Delhi rules provided for eviction. It said, "If the rules provide for eviction of a person with no right in the property to protect the interests and welfare of a senior citizen, this necessarily means that the right to order a removal of a claimant exists in the statute itself."
The court observed that the intent of the Act was not to limit the rights of the senior citizens but to maximize them. It noted that senior citizens did not have the luxury of time and the proceedings before the tribunal could be protracted on the basis of the baseless claims.
The bench was considering a writ petition in which the Welfare Tribunal and Deputy Collector (G.A.), Mumbai had passed the order in 2020 after the complaint by a senior citizen named Shetty, was challenged by his daughter Shweta.
Shetty, 94, had complained that he was continuously harassed and mistreated by his daughter who came to India in 2015 and moved into the flat unannounced. She had been rude and aggressive and her conduct deteriorated and worsened over time. She began to badger Shetty "for her share of the property."
The father mentioned that Shweta said she would leave the apartment only after being given "her share." Since her conduct posed a danger to his safety, Shetty approached the tribunal seeking relief to evict her from his apartment.
Aggrieved with the tribunal's order, Shweta had approached the High Court.
Shweta's counsel submitted that the tribunal's order had resulted in her 'eviction' from the premises, which was impermissible under the scheme of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007.
However, the bench observed, "The mere use of the word 'eviction' is not by itself determinative. To constitute eviction, or to invoke any prohibition against eviction, it must be shown that some legally enforceable civil right of the appellant in the property itself has been determined and that the appellant has been denied that right."
"Removal of a person with no right in the premises is not eviction so as to attract any such prohibition. It is not to foist on senior citizens an imaginary claim over their own property where the claimant has no such right. The statutory intent is not to limit the rights of senior citizens, but exactly the reverse," the court added.
The bench held that it did not believe that it was the statutory intent that the harassment to a senior citizen should continue while the tribunal is flooded or inundated with some evidence or the other only to prolong or delay matters. The one thing that senior citizens do not have is the benefit or luxury of time. It is not on their side, and every day's delay before a tribunal hurts them more than the younger generation.
Dismissing the petition, the top court ruled, "Our experience is that in this city, and particularly or most especially amongst the wealthy of this city, senior citizens and elderly parents are being subjected to all kinds of harassment and deprivation in their twilight years. In case after case, we have complaints from senior citizens that their own sons and daughters are harassing them."
"There is an attempt to somehow grab the senior citizen's property in his or her lifetime without the thought spared to their mental or physical health, well-being and happiness," the court stressed.
Governing against the daughter, the court demanded to know, "What is her (Shweta's) 'share' while her father is alive?" Ruling that she had none, the court said it was his choice to give away his apartment and wealth to anyone he thought worthy. "She cannot prevent him from doing so. So long as he is alive, Shweta has no 'share in his property," the court concluded.