Abuse of elderly for property: A house divided by greed

Mohali has seen a spurt in cases where senior citizens are being abused by their offspring who want the parents’ properties without taking care of them

punjab Updated: Jul 25, 2018 11:55 IST
Saurabh Chauhan
Saurabh Chauhan
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Elderly abuse,Senior citizen being abused,Senior Citizen abuse
Many senior citizens are unable to live peacefully because of constant harassment by their children.(Sikander Chopra/HT)

Though she got an order from a local court for transfer ownership of a property in her name, a weak and fragile Savitri Devi (85) of Baliali village of Mohali had to run from pillar to post to get her property freed from the clutches of her daughter, Kuldeep Kaur.

Despite the court order the daughter continued to forcibly occupy the house, not allowing her mother to claim what was rightfully hers.

Cases of abuse of the elderly by their offspring for property are increasing, especially in Mohali with many senior citizens reaching out to the Mohali district administration for help and to demand maintenance.

The police, too, report receiving more distress calls from people after assaults by children.

In most of the cases the victims first inform close relatives, especially their daughters about the violence, but are often advised to keep quiet till the situation normalises, police say.

“Realising that parents are not retaliating, the abusive offspring become even more insensitive,” says CL Garg, head of the Confederation of Mohali’s Resident Welfare Associations.

Values forgotten

This is the ugly face of society that sets great store by ‘Indian’ values such as respect for the elderly and love for the family.

An elderly man talks to Hindustan Times about his son, a wealthy non-resident who returned to India from the US some time ago to settle down in his octogenarian parents’ home.

The harassment began a few months later as the son wanted the property to be transferred to him. The old couple would find the water supply cut off or garbage dumped from the first floor where the son lived on the ground floor occupied by them.

“I don’t understand how a son can torture his parents. We sent him abroad; helped him buy properties in Mohali. Even after my death, ownership of this house will automatically be transferred to him,” says the father, requesting anonymity as he fears the son will harm him.

“Many such cases come to our Senior Citizen’s Association,” says GS Chhina, president, Mohali Senior Citizen’s Association. “We try to mediate.”

He has a few words of advice for parents. “Don’t hand over the your entire property to your children as you can face difficulties later. A senior citizen should gradually withdraw from household duties and hand over responsibilities to his children when he or she feels the time is right,” he says.

Apart from property disputes, children in some cases want to live independently. “It is very unfortunate that police or courts have to intervene in such matters. We are always working towards solving such cases amicably,” Chhina adds.

Sharp spike

The offices of the deputy commissioner (DC) and additional deputy commissioner (ADC) have logged such cases regularly in the past, but the numbers have spiked sharply in the last few years, with almost every complaint related to property disputes.

“The numbers have gone up after the rising demand for properties in Mohali. Ageing parents are vulnerable to abuse,” says an employee at the DC’s office on condition of anonymity as he’s not authorised to speak to the media.

In Mohali, about 115 cases have come up for hearing at the ADC’s court. A compromise between parents and children was possible only in 13 cases. About 70 cases had been reported in 2017 and 85 in 2016.

“Our first priority is to solve the case by way of compromise, but when matters are not resolved the case is decided on merit,” says Charandev Singh Mann, ADC Mohali. “I have seen parents crying while complaining against their children. One can only imagine how traumatic such situations are for the elderly.”

The abuse continues despite courts siding with the elderly. The Punjab and Haryana High Court (HC) ruled in February this year that senior citizens have the right to get property vacated by their children under the law. “Once a senior citizen makes a complaint to the district magistrate against the children for the vacation of the premises, such summary procedure will ensure the benefit of the parents. The children will have no right to resist the eviction only on the grounds that the law does not contemplate eviction of an occupant,” the HC has ruled.

Abandonment of the elderly too attracts a penalty. As per section 24 of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, punishment of three months or fine extending to ₹5,000 in case of abandonment of a senior citizen.

An officer recalls how an old man at the district administration’s office handed over a complaint, his hands trembling, and said, “I have worked hard to give my son a better life, but he and his wife are abusing us. I am complaining about him because I am suffering. This house will be his after I am gone so why can’t he tolerate us for a few more years?”

First Published: Jul 25, 2018 11:14 IST