In a significant judgement, the Madras High Court has ruled that property deeds must have a clause to take care of senior citizen parents. This means that if senior citizen parents are bequeathing their property to their children by way of gift or as settlement, a clause have to be included in the deed. The clause should state that the transferee will provide basic and physical needs to their parents. And if the transferee fails to provide or refuses basic amenities, the transfer of property should be deemed to be made by fraud, coercion or undue influence, the HC says.
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court passed this order while hearing a batch of petitions regarding cancellation of deeds, some filed by senior citizen parents.
The HC told officials from the registration department to ensure that the conditions stipulated in Section 23 of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 are incorporated in conveyance deeds.
The court took serious note of how after settlement of properties, several senior citizens are thrown on the street.
According to the HC, Section 23 of the Act makes it clear that when the transferor, a senior citizen, conveyed the property by means of gift or settlement, there should be a clause in the deed to ensure that the transferee provided the basic and physical needs to the transferor.
Despite these provisions under the Act for prosecuting those abandoning senior citizens, several of senior citizen parents find themselves left in the lurch by children once they bequeath their properties.
The court said that the sub-registrar and registrar, who registers a deed of conveyance must ensure that the conditions stipulated in Section 23 of the Act were incorporated in the deed, leaving the transferee not in a position to sell the property. In case of sale, the buyer would be at risk.
Justice S Vaidyanathan noted that those who were responsible for the care of senior citizens but abandoned them, should be imprisoned as per Section 24 of the Act, and imposition of fine was only secondary. Even though the word used is 'either' in Section 24 of the Act, the imprisonment should be made mandatory.
The cases filed by senior citizens would have to be heard on a day-to-day basis without adjournment for beyond seven working days.
He further added that the officials should also ensure that when the children try to sell the properties received from their parents, the signature of their parents (senior citizens) is obtained.
Justice Vaidyanathan said in his order “Even though the discretion is given to the Magistrates to try the offence and impose punishment, unless the sword of Damocles is hanging on the youngsters, there will be lots of old age homes mushrooming.”
The judge has also directed the registry of the court to place the matter before the Chief Justice for constitution of a larger bench.