A son can’t take his parents’ property for granted. The Delhi High Court has ruled that irrespective of his marital status, a son has no legal right to live in the self-acquired house of his parents and he can reside there only at their “mercy”. Only because parents have allowed him to live in their house as long as their relations are cordial does not mean they have to bear his “burden” throughout his life, it said.
There is nothing new in the verdict. But it clarifies and reiterates the legal position to the benefit of people who often think that a child has a right to his parents’ property by birth. A Hindu has a right by birth only in ancestral property and not in the self-acquired property of his parents.
The HC has rightly dismissed the plea of a man and his wife challenging the order of a trial court, which had passed a decree in favour of his parents. Acting on a civil suit by the old couple, the trial court had asked their son and daughter-in-law to vacate the floors in their possession.
The order must be welcomed as it serves as a form of protection and assurance for the elderly – vulnerable to harassment and manipulation at the hands of their children who are supposed to support them in old age.
We cling on to the myth that we are a society which respects elders but neither the State nor family ensures a life of dignity for people once they are past their `shelf life’.
Having control of their own self-acquired property is a huge insurance for the elderly.
India is often described as a young nation where 65% of the population is below the age of 35. But that’s only one side of the coin. According to a ministry of statistics report, the number of citizens over the age of 60 jumped 35.55— from 7.6 crore in 2001 to 10.3 crore in 2011. The number of elderly reached an all-time high i.e. 8.6% of India’s 121-crore population.
Perhaps it was for this reason that Parliament enacted ‘Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act in 2007 to have better provision for maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens. The law makes it a legal obligation for children and legal heirs to give maintenance to senior citizens and parents and provides for speedy mechanism for the protection of life and property of the elderly. This is in addition to Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code – a general provision on maintenance.
The Delhi HC verdict is bound to supplement the existing legal framework for the protection of the elderly, besides educating common people on the issue.