Under Parents and Senior Citizens Act, is it necessary to find out whether property belongs to parent exclusively or is a shared household in which daughter-in-law has rights? Bom HC deciphers

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of Ujjal Bhuyan and Madhav J. Jamdar, JJ., while explaining the provisions under Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 also elaborated upon the concept of shared household and remanded the matter back to the Tribunal for Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens.

In the present matter, the legality and validity of the order passed by the Deputy District Collector, acting as the Presiding Officer of the Tribunal for Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens as challenged.

Respondent 1 was the mother-in-law of the petitioner. Petitioner alongwith her husband and minor daughter used to reside in a Flat along with respondent 1.

The above referred flat originally belonged to Anandlal Jasani who during his lifetime made nomination in respect of the said flat whereby 20% share of the flat was granted in favour of petitioner’s husband.

Since her marriage, the petitioner was living in the above-stated flat along with respondent 1 and the father-in-law till his death.

Petitioner claimed that the said flat is her matrimonial home as well as her shared household. Petitioner, her husband, daughter, and respondent 1 were residing in the said flat.

Further, the petitioner submitted that her husband was suffering from mental illness and depression because of which he required regular treatment and counselling and could not contribute to the earnings of the family.

Petitioners Allegation

Petitioner alleged that respondent 1 wanted to sell the stated flat and thereafter retain the sale consideration to herself to enable her to lead an affluent lifestyle. Petitioner and her husband were opposed to selling the flat.

Adding to the above, petitioner submitted that the said flat was not self-acquired property of respondent 1, rather it was an ancestral property of the family of the petitioner’s husband wherein petitioner’s husband, petitioner and their minor daughter had equal rights, title and interest.

Further, it was added that respondent 1 had the motive of ousting the petitioner, her husband and minor daughter from the flat and that was the reason why she filed a complaint before the Tribunal for Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens for eviction of the petitioner and her husband from the flat to allow her to reside in the flat all by herself.

This Court had issued an order dated 15-04-2021 stating that no coercive steps should be taken against the petitioner.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Bench noted that Tribunal held that the flat was an ancestral property and that both respondent 1 and petitioner along with her husband had joint rights. In so far sale of the flat was concerned, it was beyond the jurisdiction of the tribunal.

In Tribunal’s opinion, as per Sections 4(2) and (3) of the 2007 Act, it was the obligation of the children or the relatives to maintain a senior citizen to the extent of the needs of such senior citizen.

Based on Sections 4,5,9, 13 and 23 of the 2007 Act, Tribunal decided and directed the petitioner and her husband to vacate the flat and to hand over the possession to respondent 1.

Whether the flat in question is a shared household and that petitioner has a right to reside in the shared household?

Supreme Court in S. Vanitha v. Deputy Commissioner, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1023 concluded that claim of the appellant that the premises constitute a shared household within the meaning of the 2005 Act would have to be determined by the appropriate forum. The claim cannot be simply obviated by evicting the appellant in the exercise of the summary powers entrusted by the 2007 Act.

Question for consideration:

Whether the Tribunal under the 2007 Act can order eviction of a person from tenement in which he has ownership right to the extent of 20%?

Whether having regard to the mandate of Section 4 of the 2007 Act read with other provisions of the said 2007 Act, Tribunal can direct or order eviction of children or relative at the first instance itself or at a later stage to enforce an order of maintenance passed at the first instance?

Supreme Court in S. Vanitha v. Deputy Commissioner, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1023 took the view that Tribunal under the 2007 Act may have the authority to order an eviction if it is necessary and expedient to ensure maintenance and protection of the senior citizen or parent.

Single Judge in Dattatrey Shivaji Mane v. Lilabai Shivaji Mane, 2018 SCC OnLine Bom 2246  took the view that the Tribunal can order eviction under the 2007 Act, as noticed above, such order was in the context of the tenement being the exclusive property of the parent/senior citizen which was not so in the present case.

Therefore, Court held that without expressing any opinion at this stage on the questions formulated by this Court above, it is essential for the Tribunal to first conclude, though summarily, as to whether the flat in question was an ancestral property or exclusively owned by respondent 1.

Further, the Court expressed that in terms of Section 9 of the 2007 Act, Tribunal must be satisfied that the parent has suffered neglect at the hands of the children or relatives or that they have refused to maintain the parent.

Under Section 5(3) of the 2007 Act, the Tribunal is mandated upon receipt of an application for maintenance to provide an opportunity of hearing to both the parties and to hold an enquiry for determining amount of maintenance.

Further, the procedure contemplated under the 2007 Act is summary in nature nonetheless Tribunal is required to find out as to whether the flat in question belongs exclusively to respondent 1 or it is an ancestral property where petitioner has also a right to ownership and/or residence through her husband.

Tribunal is also required to deal with the contention of petitioner that the flat in question is her shared household wherefrom she cannot be evicted.

As the Supreme Court had pointed out in S. Vanitha v. Deputy Commissioner2020 SCC OnLine SC 1023, both parents / senior citizens and the daughter-in-law are vulnerable groups in the Indian context and for protection of their rights the 2005 Act and the 2007 Act have been enacted.

In the above backdrop, the claims of the contesting parties would have to be decided which unfortunately does not appear to be the case in the instant proceeding. 

Hence, the High Court set aside the Tribunal’s order and remand the matter back to the Tribunal for fresh decision.[Ritika Prashant Jasani v. Anjana Niranjan Jasani, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 1802, decided on 13-08-2021]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr. Kishor Maru for Petitioner. Mr. Anoshak Daver a/w. Ms. Kausar Banatwala, Ms. Neuty Thakkar and Ms. Tanishka Desai i/b. Mr. Tushar Goradia for Respondent No.1.
Ms. Anjana N. Jasani, Respondent in person.
Ms. Ritika Jasani, Petitioner in person.

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