HT special | Till property tears us apart
Even though the law is in their favour, senior citizens still have to wage a long and draining battle against their offspring to reclaim their property in the twilight years of their life.punjab Updated: May 08, 2017 16:48 IST
Parents facing physical and mental harassment at the hands of their children are increasingly taking the help of Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, to get justice.
The UT administration, which notified the Act in 2013, is approached by senior citizens either seeking eviction of children from their houses or re-transfer of property back in their names after giving it to their children.
In last one year in Chandigarh from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 as many as 145 complaints have been filed under Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. In all 105 cases were decided. Out of the total cases in 69 the order is in favour of parents and 22 were compromised.
The UT Administration is now cautioning the parents against transferring property in the name of their children in their lifetime.
SAS Nagar officials receive at least five to seven complaints from parents every month, accusing their progenies of physical and mental abuse.
As many as 41 such complaints were filed in SAS Nagar from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017. This number stood at 29 a year before. In all, 48 cases were decided in which seven evictions were ordered and there were 33 settlements.
The appellate court of Panchkula district magistrate-cum-deputy commissioner is hearing as many as 30 cases in which parents are seeking the eviction of their progenies from their properties.
Member of the Panchkula appellate court Shyam Lal Sachdeva says it’s social awakening backed by law that has emboldened parents to fight against harassment by their legal heirs.
Long trek to justice
Even though most of these are open and shut cases, the road to justice is long and treacherous. The senior citizens’ journey to reclaim the property is both emotionally and physically taxing with cases taking unduly long even in courts specially set up to give them speedy justice. Implementation of the final orders also often entails anther long battle.
Under the rules drafted for senior citizens, once the district magistrate receives an application from senior citizens for eviction, he will immediately forward it to sub-divisional magistrate concerned for verifying the title of the property and ensure that the report is submitted within 21 days, before starting the trial.
But in many cases, SDM reports take months not days, thereby delaying justice.
One such case is that of Sher Singh, a resident of Bhainsa Tibba in Panchkula. His lawyer Yagya Dutt Sharma says his case for eviction is stuck as the SDM has not submitted his verification report for the last three months. “We have met many officials but to no avail,” he complained.
In cases where the SDM report is filed, the hearings don’t conclude on time. Then there is a delay in the enforcement of orders due to the lackadaisical attitude of both the administration and the police.
What makes this fight more complex for parents is the number of other litigations that are triggered once they go against their children.
In many cases, daughters-in-law file cases of harassment for dowry against their in-laws.
17 months and still waiting
It was in December 2015 that Col VS Dhillon (retd) moved a petition in the local appellate authority to seek the eviction of his only son from his one-kanal house in Sector 2, Panchkula. Almost two years on, he is still awaiting the final decision in his case. “For full one year, I was made to wait because the new appellate body had not been constituted,” said Dhillon, whose case hearing finally began in January this year.
“But a lot has changed in this interval,” he rues. His son has filed several civil cases against him to stake claim to his properties, while his daughter-in-law has sued him and his wife for harassment.
“I am currently facing five different civil cases because I dared to stand up to my son and daughter-in-law. It could have been avoided had my case followed the timeline laid down by law,” said the officer who retired from the Indian army in 2002 after 37 years of service.
He says his fight is not about property. “We live in same house, he along with his family on the first floor and we on the ground floor. But what is the use of his presence when he doesn’t give us a damn, and instead gives us grief by humiliating us,” he fumes. Dhillon says he tried to talk some sense into his son but to no avail. Then, he asked him to move out. When his son refused, Dhillon approached the forum. “It is unfortunate because being my only son, he would have eventually inherited this property.”
The counter cases have come as a big jolt to Dhillon. “I am an educated and aware citizen, and I have the grit and wherewithal to fight all the cases, but I wonder what happens to the elderly who are not educated and don’t have any resources,” he rues.
He says senior citizen tribunals and other bodies were set up so that their cases could be fast-tracked. “But what is the use of such special privileges if they don’t deliver timely relief,” he asks. “There is a dire need to sensitise officers in charge.”
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Despite legal delays, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Pachkula resident Harvinder Kaur Bawa successfully reclaimed her house illegally occupied by her son in Sector 6, after the DM’s orders. “I still have no malice or hatred against my son. This is how mothers are,” says Harvinder Kaur Bawa, a 75-year-old who fought a legal battle against her elder son for six years. She got its possession last month.
Bawa is not triumphant about her victory, saying there is nothing more sad in life than having your own children turn against you. “I was compelled to leave my home after my son filed several false cases against me just to grab my property.”
A teacher and educationist, she taught hundreds of children in her career. “It was the rudest shock of my life when my own son started harassing me just because the value of my house had increased to several crores,” she rues. The decision to wage a legal battle was quite a wrench for her. “For long, I thought how will I fight my son. But then I decided to do that and managed to get what I deserved -- not my house but my dignity,” she says with moist eyes.
A fighter all along
It was in 1977 that Bawa lost her husband, a senior employee at the Nestle factory in Moga. With little money in hand, she struggled to raise her two sons, first with her job as teacher and then by opening a toddlers’ school in Panchkula. The house that got her into trouble with her son was built after years of hard work.
While deciding in Bawa’s favour, district magistrate-cum-deputy commissioner Gauri Prashar Joshi stated that the property in question belonged to Bawa and she held the right to use it. “Since her son continues to use it against her wishes, this amounts to injustice and clearly deprives the right of an individual especially a senior citizen from spending an important part of her life peacefully,” the DC summed up.
Don’t pamper our children
Bawa says her only appeal to parents is that they should not pamper their children beyond a point. “When I look back, I think the only mistake I committed was excessive generosity. I gave my elder son everything, which only ended up increasing his greed,” she says.
Her message to other parents is simple: “Do not get affected by societal pressure and stand up against your children if you are harassed. But getting the right legal help is most important while fighting a legal battle,” she adds. Bawa also cautions the elderly against transferring their property to the children in their lifetime.
She rues that hers is a success story in which she is the biggest loser. “But if my story can give strength to others like me, I think it is worth telling.”