Parents can transfer property to ‘Caring Children'
Raja Ram Vs Jai Prakash Singh and Ors
CIVIL APPEAL NO(s). 2896 OF 2009
About/from the judgment:
If parents transfer property to an offspring who takes care of them in old age, it can't be assumed that the individual exerted undue influence on them to corner a bigger share of property & dispossessed his or her siblings, the Supreme Court has ruled in a dispute that goes back to 1970.
Adjudicating a property dispute among brothers, a bench of Justices Navin Sinha & Indira Banerjee said drawing such conclusion without requisite evidence would have undesirable consequences as people who take care of aged parents will be at the receiving end from siblings who chose to be less dutiful.
The Top Court concluded that the offspring who receives a larger inheritance cann't be subjected to a “reverse burden of proof” to establish that they looked after their parents only with the objective of extracting a large share of property & other valuables.
The Top Court said there is bound to be more affinity between elder members of the family & those who look after them day-to-day & if property is transferred to a caring person then inference of undue influence cann't be drawn. Such an implication could deter people from caring for their elders.
“In every cast, creed, religion & civilised society, looking after elders of the family is considered a sacred & pious duty. Nonetheless, today it has become a matter of serious concern. Parliament taking note of the same enacted the Maintenance & Welfare of Parents & Senior Citizens Act, 2007. We are of the considered opinion, in the changing times & social mores, that to straightaway infer undue influence merely because a sibling was looking after the family elder, is an extreme proposition which cann't be countenanced in the absence of sufficient & adequate evidence,” the Top Court said.
“Any other interpretation by inferring a reverse burden of proof straightaway on those who were taking care of the elders, as having exercised undue influence, can lead to very undesirable consequences. It mayn't necessarily lead to neglect, but can certainly create doubts & apprehensions leading to lack of full & proper care under the fear of allegations with regard to exercise of undue influence,” it said.
In the case under consideration, the siblings fought for close to 5 decades after the father transferred property to one of them in 1970. The father died a year after & the sale deed was challenged by other members of the family, alleging it was done fraudulently by deceit & under undue influence because of old age & infirmity of the deceased who was living with him.
The trial court & HC refused to give credence to the allegation and the aggrieved members then approached the Top Court. The SC too dismissed their plea and upheld the sale deed executed 49 years back. It said no evidence was placed before the court that transfer of property was done under any undue influence and assumption cann't be drawn against the person taking care of parents.
“Their conduct in looking after the deceased & his wife in old age may have influenced the thinking of the deceased. But that per se cann't lead to the only irresistible conclusion that the original defendants were therefore in a position to dominate the will of the deceased or that the sale deed executed was unconscionable,” the bench said.
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