Supreme Court: In a case where a senior citizen had sought for cancellation of the release deeds executed by her in favour of her children as they were refusing to maintain her in return, the bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay S. Oka*, JJ has held that the deed cannot be cancelled if it does not specifically states the condition for providing the basic amenities and basic physical needs to the transferor.

In the case at hand, the senior citizen had, before the Maintenance Tribunal, stated that her relationship with her son and daughters was strained and therefore, her son and daughters were not maintaining her, hence, the release deed executed by her in their favour was illegal and void. Accordingly, a prayer was made in the petition under sub-section (1) of Section 23 of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 for cancellation of the said release deed.

The Maintenance Tribunal found strength in her case and ordered that the release deed was null and void as the children were not willing to take care of the senior citizen. The Punjab and Haryana High Court confirmed the order.

The Court explained that for attracting sub-section (1) of Section 23, the following two conditions must be fulfilled:

  1. The transfer must have been made subject to the condition that the transferee shall provide the basic amenities and basic physical needs to the transferor; and
  2. the transferee refuses or fails to provide such amenities and physical needs to the transferor.

If both the aforesaid conditions are satisfied, by a legal fiction, the transfer shall be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or undue influence. Such a transfer then becomes voidable at the instance of the transferor and the Maintenance Tribunal gets jurisdiction to declare the transfer as void.

Observing that effecting transfer subject to a condition of providing the basic amenities and basic physical needs to the transferor – senior citizen is sine qua non for applicability of sub-section (1) of Section 23, the Court noted that,

“When a senior citizen parts with his or her property by executing a gift or a release or otherwise in favour of his or her near and dear ones, a condition of looking after the senior citizen is not necessarily attached to it. On the contrary, very often, such transfers are made out of love and affection without any expectation in return.”

Therefore, when it is alleged that the conditions mentioned in sub-section (1) of Section 23 are attached to a transfer, existence of such conditions must be established before the Tribunal.

However, in the case at hand it was noticed that it is not even pleaded that the release deed was executed subject to a condition that the transferees would provide the basic amenities and basic physical needs to the senior citizen. Even in the order passed by the Maintenance Tribunal, no such finding has been recorded. Rather, it was merely pleaded that the appellant had no intention to take care of her mother.

Hence, the Court set aside the order of the Maintenance Tribunal as well as the High Court as the twin conditions incorporated in sub-Section (1) of Section 23 were not satisfied.

[Sudesh Chhikara v. Ramti Devi, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 1684, decided on 06.12.2022]

*Judgment by: Justice Abhay S Oka

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