‘Ensure clause in settlement deeds to protect senior citizens’

If elders are refused basic amenities, property transfer should be deemed a fraud: HC

Taking a serious note of the fact that after settlement of properties, several senior citizens are thrown on the street, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has observed that appropriate steps must be initiated as per the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007.

The court said Section 23 of the Act made 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/physical needs to the transferor. If the transferee failed to provide or refused basic amenities, the transfer of property should be deemed to be made by fraud, coercion or undue influence.

The Sub-Registrar/Registrar who registered a deed of conveyance must ensure that 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, the court said.

Justice S. Vaidyanathan observed that those who were responsible for the care of senior citizens but left them in the lurch should be imprisoned as per Section 24 of the Act, and imposition of fine was only secondary. The cases filed by senior citizens would have to be heard on a day-to-day basis without adjournment for beyond seven working days.

Though the word used was “either” in Section 24 of the Act, the imprisonment should be made mandatory. Even though discretion was given to magistrates to try the offence and impose punishment, unless the sword of Damocles was hanging on youngsters, a lot of old age homes would be mushrooming and the crime would be on the rise, the judge said.

The court was hearing a batch of petitions that challenged the unilateral cancellation of deeds, and the point raised was whether Registrars had the power to register the deed of cancellation or a civil court had to be approached. With conflicting judgements in this regard, the judge directed the issue be placed before the Chief Justice for constitution of a larger bench to decide the matter.

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