The Bombay High Court held that during the lifetime of their parents, children cannot legally assert exclusive ownership or possession rights over their parents' property.

The Court dismissed the Petition of a son challenging the order of the Senior Citizens Maintenance Tribunal (Tribunal) directing him to vacate the tenement owned by his mother.

The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (Senior Citizens Act) was enacted to provide essential protection to senior citizens while safeguarding their well-being.

During the life time of the parents, the children cannot assert any legal right whatsoever in respect of the property of their parents claiming exclusive ownership or possession of the parents property”, the Bench comprising Justice GS Kulkarni and Justice Firdosh P. Pooniwalla observed.

Advocate Harshal N. Mirashi appeared for the Petitioner, Additional Government Pleader PJ Gavhane appeared for the State and Advocate Ajit M. Savagave appeared for the Respondent.

A suit was filed by a senior citizen mother against her son and daughter-in-law for illegally ejecting her from her residence. Her Son challenged an order issued by the Senior Citizens Maintenance Tribunal (Tribunal). The mother had approached the Tribunal, asserting that the son and his wife unlawfully expelled her. The Tribunal directed the petitioner to vacate the tenement owned by his mother. The Petitioner, therefore, approached the High Court challenging the order of the Tribunal.

It is most unfortunate that the mother in the twilight years of her life, after her husband had passed away, instead of receiving love, affection, care and empathy from her sons and their family members (barring the eldest son), was required to take recourse to legal proceedings in approaching the tribunal, being ousted by her son from her house”, the Court noted.

The Court observed that the mother experienced significant emotional trauma due to being disowned by one of her sons, an ordeal no parent should endure. The Bench highlighted the values that surpass material possessions in life, emphasizing the pride parents take in their children's achievements across various domains, rather than focusing solely on wealth. Despite such ideals, the ongoing legal battle revealed the impracticality of such notions in the face of human greed. The Court, recognizing the fundamental rights of senior citizens, underscored the enactment of the Senior Citizens Act as a legislative safeguard for their rights.

Proud would be the parents of such children who would have their own achievements on all fronts and not look at the wealth and money of their old parents. However, litigation which has reached the Courts, would show that the world cannot so idealistic, as human greed is a bottomless pit. This is certainly neither the stage in life or the age of the mother, that she should suffer on such cause. It is for such reason, the legislature in recognising the rights of the senior citizens and to protect their rights, have framed the Senior Citizens Act”, the Court noted.

Additionally, the Bench pointed out that the Senior Citizens Act aimed to address societal shifts away from traditional family structures, leading to increasing numbers of elderly individuals, particularly widowed women, being left without adequate care, emotional support, and financial assistance. The Act responded to the challenges posed by ageing as a significant societal issue, emphasizing the care and protection of older persons.

Furthermore, the Court highlighted the legislative intent behind the Senior Citizens Act, aiming for simplified, cost-effective, and expeditious provisions for claiming maintenance. The Bench noted the Act's comprehensive scheme, covering overriding effects, maintenance procedures, jurisdiction, tribunal constitution, summary procedures, orders for maintenance, enforcement mechanisms, provisions for old-age homes, medical care, and protection of life and property of senior citizens. The legislation also addressed offences related to the abandonment of senior citizens, specifying penalties and trial procedures, with miscellaneous provisions excluding civil court jurisdiction in certain circumstances.

The Court, referencing Shweta Shetty v State of Maharashtra & Ors. [WP (L) No. 9374 of 2020], reiterated the statutory intent to protect senior citizens rather than impose imaginary claims on their property. It affirmed that, during their parents' lifetime, children cannot assert exclusive ownership or possession rights over their parents' property. The proper recourse, if needed, would be for the petitioner to file a suit after the mother's demise, particularly if other siblings claim rights to the premises.

In light of these considerations, the Court noted that the petitioner neglected his mother's basic needs and displayed a clear intention to oust her for third-party interests, justifying the Tribunal's removal order.

The Bench emphasized that the mother deserved maintenance from her tenement, and the petitioner lacked the legal right to render her roofless. Consequently, the Court held that the petitioner must vacate within 15 days, or eviction procedures would commence, with no creation of third-party rights until the mother gained vacant possession.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the Petition.

Cause Title: Dinesh Bhanudas Chandanshive v The State of Maharashtra (2024:BHC-AS:4288-DB)

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