The Allahabad High Court held that once an application under Section 22(1) of the U.P. Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (Act, 2007) and Rule 22(2)(i) of the corresponding Rules, 2014 has been delegated by the proper authority, the said application cannot be dismissed on grounds of non-maintainability by the subordinate officer.

The Court noted that the District Magistrate (DM) is empowered to delegate the obligation, to safeguard the property of senior citizens, to a subordinate officer under Section 22(1) of the Act, 2007 and Rule 22(2)(i) of the Rules, 2014. The Court directed the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) to recall the impugned order and issue a new order based on the merits of the case. The SDM had dismissed an application by a senior citizen seeking eviction orders against Respondents, citing non-maintainability as the grounds for dismissal after the DM had delegated the case.

The Bench comprising Justice Saumitra Dayal Singh and Justice Rajendra Kumar-IV noted, “Thus, under Section 22(1) of the Act read with Rule 22(2)(i) of the Rules, it is the duty of the District Magistrate to ensure, amongst others, the property of senior citizens are protected. Then, by virtue of Section 22(1) of the Act, the District Magistrate has been empowered to delegate his function to any officer subordinate to him”.

Therefore, once that complete delegation had been made by the proper authority, in accordance with law, it never became open to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Khalilabad to observe that the application moved by the petitioner, was not maintainable”, the Bench observed.

Advocates Tripathi B.G. Bhai and Pramod Kumar Singh appeared for the Petitioner, Standing Counsel Mukul Tripathi appeared for the Respondent/ State, and Advocate Sanjeev Kumar Singh appeared for Respondents no. 6 to 9.

A Writ Petition was filed seeking directions against Respondents no. 2 to 5 to restore the possession of the Petitioner over the disputed property (House) after evicting Respondent no.6 to 9 as well as from the agricultural land in the exercise of the power conferred by Rule 21(2)(i) and Rule 22(1) of the U.P. Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Rules, 2014 (Rules, 2014). The Petitioner had filed before the DM seeking eviction orders against the Respondents, which the DM had delegated to the SDM. However, the SDM had dismissed the case on grounds of non-maintainability.

The Court noted that the SDM did not make a decision on the Petitioner's application despite specific orders from the Court. Instead, the Court noted that the SDM had refused to exercise jurisdiction and dismissed the application.

The Bench observed that per Section 22(1) of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 (Act, 2007), along with Rule 22(2)(i) of the Rules, 2014, the DM is obligated to protect the property of senior citizens. The Court observed that the DM can delegate this responsibility to their subordinates, and once this delegation is complete, the SDM cannot declare the application as non-maintainable. If there is any confusion regarding the delegation of power, the SDM can seek clarification from the DM.

The Bench emphasized that the Act 2007 is a welfare legislation that offers senior citizens a speedy and concise solution to protect their property and life, and it is inappropriate for the SDM to reject an application on the grounds of non-maintainability. If the SDM believes that the DM alone should consider the application, they should refer the matter back to the DM with their opinion on the matter, the Court observed.

It may not be forgotten that the Act is a piece of welfare legislation. It seeks to offer speedy, summary remedy to senior citizens to protect their life and property, to the minimum. The proceedings being summary in nature, it was not proper on part of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Khalilabad to have rejected the application as not maintainable”, the Court observed.

Furthermore, the Bench noted that if an applicant applies to the DM and the power to handle the application has been delegated to the SDM, the DM will transfer the application to the appropriate officer and inform the applicant of the delegation made. The Bench noted that to ensure efficient communication, the DM and/or the SDM offices may keep a record of the applicant's phone number, social media platform, and email address.

Similarly, the Bench held that if an application is filed before the SDM, and they are unsure whether they have the authority to handle it, they will verify the facts with the office of the DM and proceed accordingly. Suppose the SDM determines that they do not have the authority to deal with the application due to a lack of delegation. In that case, they will inform the applicant of this and send the matter to the DM with appropriate communication via phone number, social media platform, and/or email. The Bench noted that such measures ensure that senior citizens are not unnecessarily troubled and do not have to inquire about their application status repeatedly.

The Court noted, “By way of corollary, if any application is filed before the SubDivisional Magistrate who entertains any doubt if such application is maintainable before him, he may, where required, verify the correct facts with respect to delegation of power from the office of the District Magistrate and proceed accordingly. If he forms a view that the application is not maintainable, by that authority, for reason of lack of delegation, he may only make a proper note and remit the matter to the District Magistrate with appropriate communication made, to the senior citizen/applicant amongst others, on the landline/mobile number and/or social media platform/email”.

The Bench observed that the DM of Sant Kabir Nagar noted the Petitioner's application and directed the SDM, Khalilabad, to take appropriate action.

The Court allowed the SDM, Khalilabad, Sant Kabir Nagar, to recall their order dated 28.8.2023 and issue a new order based on the merits of the case, including the Petitioner's claim and the objections raised by private Respondents 6 to 9. The Court directed the parties to appear for the hearing before the SDM, Khalilabad, Sant Kabir Nagar, on September 28, 2023.

Accordingly, the Court disposed of the Petition.

Cause Title: Dr Virendra Singh v State Of U.P. And 8 Others

Click here to read/download Order