Transfer of property from senior citizen can be revoked: Kerala HC

KOCHI: Transfer of property from a senior citizen can be revoked for not providing the basic amenities even if there is no specific clause in the transfer deed to provide for the senior citizen’s welfare, says the Kerala high court.

The decision by a division bench of the high court was after considering an appeal filed by 45-year-old Shabeen Martin of Pulachithara near Vaniyamkulam in Palakkad and his wife. They had challenged a single bench’s ruling that upheld a maintenance tribunal’s order for returning the property they obtained from a senior citizen. On February 8, 2012, 75-year-old Muriel Rejinold Beemello, who is the sister of the appellant’s mother, had executed a deed transferring her property to the appellant and his wife. On May 4, 2013, Muriel filed a complaint before the maintenance tribunal set up as per provisions of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act.

In the complaint, Muriel said the property was transferred on the understanding that the appellant and his wife shall take care of her. As they have not done so, the transfer deed is liable to be declared as void as per section 23 of the Act, she complained. Accepting her complaint, the tribunal declared as void the settlement deed for the transfer of property through an order issued on August 7, 2013. The appellants approached the single bench in 2014 after an appellate tribunal declined to interfere with the maintenance tribunal’s order. The single bench ruled in favour of the senior citizen on July 11th this year.

Upholding the single bench’s order, the division bench held, “Section 23 (1) shows that where, after the commencement of the Act, a senior citizen has transferred his property by way of a gift deed or otherwise, subject to the condition that the transferee shall provide basic amenities and physical needs to the transferor and such transferee refuses or fails to provide such amenities and physical needs, the transfer of such property shall be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion, or under undue influence. Reading of this provision, itself, would show that it is not the legislative requirement or intent that the document evidencing the transfer, either by gift or otherwise, should itself contain an express condition that the transferee shall provide the basic amenities and physical needs of the transfer. On the other hand, if there are evidence to the satisfaction of the authorities under the Act that the requirements of Section 23 are satisfied in a case, it is always open to the authorities to invoke their power under Section 23 of the Act and invalidate the document. Such an understanding of the section, according to us, would only advance the object of the Act. On the other hand, if the contention now advanced is accepted, that will defeat the very object and purpose of the Act.”

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