Madras HC Empowers Senior Citizens to Reclaim Property Regardless of Transfer Deed Conditions

Madras HC Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: 15 September 2023 at 17:19 IST

The Madras High Court has affirmed that senior citizens can regain ownership of property transferred to their children or other recipients in cases where the transferee fails to provide a life of dignity and care for the senior citizen.

Justice SM Subramaniam, highlighted the importance of interpreting the phrase ‘subject to condition’ in Section 23(1) of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 in a holistic manner, concluding that it implies an unwritten obligation to maintain the senior citizen.

The ruling clarifies that Section 23(1) can be invoked to annul a property transfer or gift deed, irrespective of whether there is a direct stipulation obligating the transferee to furnish essential amenities or attend to the fundamental physical needs of the transferor, who is often a senior citizen or the parent of the transferee.

Section 23 addresses the grounds on which property transfers by senior citizens can be invalidated or declared void. One such ground for nullifying a property transfer is if the transferee fails to adhere to a “condition” requiring the provision of basic amenities and basic physical necessities for the senior citizen.

Justice Subramaniam emphasized that the phrase “subject to condition” in this section should not be narrowly construed to mean that the property transfer deed must explicitly contain such a condition. Instead, it imposes an inherent responsibility on the transferee to care for the senior citizen.

The Court explained, “The phrase ‘subject to the condition that the transferee shall provide the basic amenities’ does not mean that the Gift or Settlement Deed should contain any such condition expressly. ‘Subject to the condition’ as employed in Section 23(1) is to be holistically understood with reference to the subsequent phrase i.e., ‘deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or undue influence.’ Both the phrases would amplify that the deeming clause should be considered so as to form an opinion that the phrase ‘subject to condition’ amounts to an implied condition to maintain the senior citizen and any violation would be sufficient for the purpose of invoking Section 23(1) of the Act, to cancel the Gift or Settlement Deed executed by the senior citizen.”

The case before the Court involved Mohammed Dayan, who contested an order from Tirupur district revenue authorities that revoked a property settlement deed executed by his mother. The cancellation followed a complaint by Dayan’s mother, alleging that he had failed to uphold a promise made during the property transfer to care for his elderly parents. She claimed that Dayan was now compelling his parents to vacate their family home and was refusing to cover their basic necessities and medical expenses.

The Court ultimately dismissed Dayan’s petition and upheld the decision to annul the property settlement deed, concluding that the circumstances warranted relief for the petitioner’s mother as granted by the relevant authorities.

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