The Bombay High Court recently upheld an order of the Senior Citizens Welfare Tribunal (tribunal) directing a man to pay monthly maintenance as well as handover a flat to his 88-year-old mother.
The court, in a writ petition challenging the tribunal’s order, held that the petitioners had no legal right to the flat and they cannot evict the mother to take exclusive advantage of the same.
The division bench of Justice S. V. Gangapurwala and Justice R. N. Laddha however, reduced the maintenance amount as it was not in accordance with Section 9(2) of the Maintenance And Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 (Act).
One Gamanlal Mehta had purchased the flat with his wife Manjulaben Mehta (respondent). After his death, the flat was transferred to the respondent. She filed a complaint before the tribunal to evict her son and his wife (the petitioners) from the flat. She also sought payment of Rs 1.32 crore with interest that she and her late husband had allegedly loaned to the petitioners. The tribunal directed the petitioners to vacate the flat and pay her a monthly maintenance amount of Rs. 25000. Hence, the petitioners approached the High Court.
Advocate Pradeep Thorat for the petitioners submitted that the mother is not the sole owner of the flat. Her son is entitled to 1/10th share. The flat is merged with three neighbouring flats owned by the petitioners. Further, the tribunal did not follow the summary procedure as per Section 5(3), Section 6 and Section 8 of 2007 Act. Also, Rules 7 and 13 of the Rules under the 2007 Act were not followed.
Thorat further contended that the tribunal did not have jurisdiction to grant the maintenance as it can only grant maximum amount of Rs. 10000. Further, the original complaint was not for maintenance but for eviction of the petitioners and recovery of the alleged loan amount. Thorat submitted that arbitration proceedings are pending between the parties and the petitioners are entitled to a neighbouring flat under the Family Arrangement dated 26 August 2009.
Advocate Dinesh Purandare for the respondent-mother contended that the petitioners did not allow her to close interconnected doors with the other flats. She is constantly being pressured by the petitioners to vacate the flat. They also forced her to sign over the other two flats to them. Further, the petitioners do not pay anything to her for maintenance and medical treatment and they are not willing to repay the loan amount given to them by her and her husband, he submitted.
The court said that this is not a summary case and does not require oral evidence as it is well established that the respondent-mother is owner of the flat and the son had never objected to the same. The procedure has to be followed as per section 8 of the 2007 Act. The court noted that the respondent-mother had filed a complaint at the police station against the petitioners.
The court noted that the petitioners have other flats where they can reside after vacating the mother’s flat.
The Family Settlement Deed had recorded that the whole estate of Gamanlal Mehta would be transferred to his widow as her absolute property. The court did not find any document on record showing that the petitioners have independent right to the flat.
Hence, the court confirmed the order of the tribunal directing the petitioners to vacate the flat. “In fact, the petitioners should have, with honour, allowed the mother-respondent to stay in the said flat“, the court added.
The respondent-mother had contended in her complaint before the tribunal that she could not maintain herself and requires regular medical check-ups and treatment. It was further alleged that the petitioners have neglected her because of which she is facing emotional disturbance. Further, she alleged that the petitioners forced her to sign the gift deed of two other flats. Police complaint was also filed about the same. Her son does not pay her for the maintenance and medical treatment and he is not ready to return the loan amount given by her and a deceased husband, she had alleged.
The court did not find anything on record which contradicted the complaint. “If the petitioners are not maintaining respondent no.3-mother and are creating a nuisance and emotional disturbances to her, the whole purpose of the Act would be frustrated“, the court stated. Hence, the court found no perversity in the finding of the tribunal while passing the maintenance order. However, Section 9(2) of the 2007 Act limits the monthly maintenance amount to Rs 10,000, the court observed. Therefore, the court reduced the amount to Rs 10,000 per month.
Case no. – Writ Petition (L) No. 25744 of 2022
Case title – Hemant Gamanlal Mehta v. State of Maharashtra and Ors.