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Madras High Court Allows Parent to Rescind Settlement Agreement with Son, Citing him ‘Heartless’

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Khushi Bajpai

Published on: 10th October, 2022 at 19:31 IST

The Madras High Court recently granted a retired Air Force pilot and his wife permission to revoke the settlement agreement they had signed with their son [Mr. N Nagarajan vs. Mr. Shekhar Raj], citing the son’s “heartless” behaviour toward his parents.

In order to emphasize the responsibility of a son, the single-judge Justice PT Asha’s judgment from September 27 evoked the great Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar.

The Court quoted a couplet by Thiruvalluvar and observed, “Where a son conducts himself in such a manner that others around would praise the father and state that the father must have endured immense penance to have spawned such a son.”

The father’s email to his son, in which he expressed his helplessness and inquired about whether or not he should enter an old-age home, moved the court.

The judgment noted that after their two sons declined to take care of them, the appellant-father, N Nagarajan, and his wife were compelled to sell their jewelry and utilize the last of their savings and pension to pay for their medical expenditures.

Therefore, Justice Asha granted the parents’ appeal, which was made in response to a lower court decision that favored their older son in a property dispute.

The judge ruled that the appellants had the right to revoke the settlement instrument they had signed in 2012 in favor of their two sons because the sons had since failed to fulfill their obligations.

Relevantly, the Court determined that all other general laws in force in India, including the Transfer of Property Act, are superseded by the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, a special statute passed after India signed the Madrid International Plan of Action on Aging.

The Court further found that Section 23 of the Act stipulates that if parents transfer property pursuant to a requirement that the transferee meet the transferor’s fundamental physical and hygienic needs, the transfer may be deemed unlawful at the transferor’s discretion.

The couple’s eldest son (petitioner) had argued before the High Court that the settlement deed could not be unilaterally revoked because he had given his parents a sum of money equal to 3 lakh rupees at the time the deed was executed and had also granted them the right to collect rent from their real estate until they passed away.

However, the couple contended that they had chosen the settlement deed because they had intended to give equal shares of their assets, including the home they were residing in.

However, by carrying out the deed only in his name, the eldest son had duped them. The couple informed the court that he was well settled in Australia and was now requesting that they leave their home.

It was claimed that their younger son had ignored their calls and emails.

According to Nagarajan, his wife is unwell and will probably need to be hospitalized. He was confined to a bed after several hip operations. He was thinking of entering an old age home because his two kids were unwilling to assist him and his wife. It was argued that he wanted to revoke the settlement agreement since the sons had broken their promise to look after the couple.

According to the Court’s decision, Section 23 of the Act allows parents to revoke a settlement agreement they have made with their children if they fail to meet their needs for shelter, food, and health care.

The Court ruled that, in this instance, the two sons had disregarded both their moral and legal obligations to care for their elderly parents.

Therefore, it claimed that the lower court erred in delaying the annulment of the settlement deed.

The verdict said, “The plaintiff (older son) has breached the duties imposed on him by the deed by failing to attend to the parents’ medical requirements. The plaintiff’s action served as justification for the cancellation. Given these facts, the second appeal is granted,”

While attorney KR Hariharan represented the respondent, attorney Sharada Vivek represented the appellants.