Fraud under Section 23(1) of Senior Citizens Act Limited to Violation of Transferor’s Upkeep Condition, Cannot Extend to Civil Law Fraud: Karnataka High Court

Case title: Jayashankar and the Assistant Commissioner and Ors. 

Case no: Writ appeal No. 339 of 2023 (GM-RES)

Dated on: 24th April, 2024

Quorum: Hon’ble Justice Mr. N.V. Anjaria and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Krishna S Dixit.

Facts of the case: 
Under Section 4 of the Karnataka High Court Act, 1961 the writ appeal was directed against a judgement and order of a learned counsel dated on 03.03.2023 passed in a writ petition No. 12226 of 2020, dismissing the petition. There was an order passed under 23(1) of the maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens Act, 2007. The tribunal had declared that the registered gift deed dated 28.01.2014 was liable to be treated as cancelled as the transfer of property was void. The complainant K.V Nanjappa aged nearly hundred stated that the ancestral property is being partitioned but the complainant has retained one house, certain sites and 5acres of land. It was stated that the younger son of the complainant Jayashankar took the complainant to the Taluka office by misrepresentation saying that his presence is needed for a pension case and instead he got registered the document from the complainant in his favour. The complainant recently learned that his younger son Jayashankar had gotten the property registered without his knowledge. The complainant stated that he did not execute such gift deed to his son. The Tribunal declared that the registered Gift Deed dated 28.01.20214 to be cancelled as transfer of the property is void. The Original Petition was filed under Section 4 of the Karnataka High Court 1961 to set aside the Order dated 06.01.2014 passed by the President of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Tribunal. On Appeal, the Learned Single Judge observed that the Gift Deed was unequivocal and the property was gifted provided the Appellant took care of the father. The Petitioner was found to be not taking care and hence the condition of the Gift Deed was breached and the said finding by the Assistant Commissioner under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act,2007 was based on the admission of the Appellant that his father is not residing with him. This Writ Appeal is filed under Section 4 of the Karnataka High Court Act, 1961, to set aside the impugned Order dated 03.03.2023 passed by the Learned Single Judge in WP 12226 of 2020.

Contentions of the appellant:

The single Judge overlooked the aspect that while providing the gift deed and transfer thereunder, the Competent Authority came to the conclusion that Gift Deed was acted upon by fraud. However, there was no evidence before the Authority that the Gift deed was executed by fraud. After death of the Complainant, it came to light that the father had executed a Will and that the Respondents were not happy with the Will and lodged Complaint under Section 379,420,447,448,465,468,471 and 506 of IPC. Apart from the same the Respondents also filed OS 70/2019 to declare the registered Will as null and void. All these material aspects were disregarded by the learned single Judge to confirm the judgment and order of the Tribunal.


Whether the Competent Authority under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 has passed order by going beyond the purview of Section 23 (1) of the Act?

Legal provisions:

Section 23 (1) of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007: Section 23 of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 empowers a senior citizen to approach the Maintenance Tribunal to declare a certain specific transfer of property, by way of gift or otherwise, after the commencement of the MWPSCA, as void, if in case the transfer of property was premised on the condition that the transferee shall provide for the basic amenities and physical needs of the transferor; and after the transfer got effected such transferee refused or failed to provide for such basic amenities and physical needs.

Section 379- Theft imprisonment for three years with fine or both.
Section 420- deals with act of cheating.
Section 447- criminal trespass.
Section 448- house trespass.
Section 465- punishment for forgery.
Section 468- forgery.
Section 471- using a forged document as genuine.
Section 506- punishment for criminal intimidation.

Courts analysis and judgement:

The Supreme Court in Sudhesh Chhikara Vs Ramti Devi held that for attracting Section 23(1) two conditions must be fulfilled (a) The transfer must have been made subject to the condition that the transferee shall provide the basic amenities and basic physical needs to the transferor and (b) The transferee refuses or fails to provide such amenities and physical needs to the transferor. If both the conditions are fulfilled then by legal fiction the transfer shall be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion or undue influence and the transfer shall become voidable. The facts suggests that an obligation was there on the Appellant to take care of the Complainant father and on such condition the gift deed was executed. The said condition was breached, as per the finding of the Competent Authority and the learned single judge as well. The Appellant admitted that father was not residing with him. The Complainant had to stay at the elder son’s house. The condition of treating the Gift Deed void was satisfied and hence there is no error in the order of the single judge for confirming the Order of the Tribunal by treating the gift deed as cancelled. However, the Tribunal while ordering cancellation of the gift deed cast doubt on the execution of the Gift Deed for the reason that while executing Gift Deed the Complainant has put thumb impression on the document but at the time of filing the complaint, he has put his signature which creates serious doubts about the consent and knowledge of the Complaint with regard to execution of the Gift Deed. The aforesaid finding by the Tribunal is unwarranted and further the Tribunal has gone beyond the operational purview of Section 23 (1). The section treats the transfer of the property in a particular manner to be deemed to have been made by fraud or coercion upon breach of condition of taking care and providing basic amenities i.e; the idea of fraud or coercion in section 23 (1) is in reference to breach of condition I.e; providing basic amenities and physical needs to the senior citizen. The words fraud and coercion could not be enlarged to normal concept of fraud or coercion in civil law. To establish fraud, evidence is required to prove the facts of fraud. Tribunal is neither a civil court nor the power exercised by the Tribunal is under the provisions of the Civil Court. The powers granted under the Act is to provide effective recourse in law or maintenance and welfare of parents and senior citizens and to guarantee and recognize them their rights. The Tribunal misdirected itself in law in making observations on paragraph 13 of the Order by suggesting that the gift deed was fraudulently obtained from the complainant. The findings are beyond powers and jurisdiction of the Tribunal. Accordingly, the observations in paragraph 13 of the Order of Tribunal are not sustained and are set aside. The Judgment and order of the learned single judge is modified to the said extent and rest of the part is confirmed. Accordingly, the Writ appeal is dismissed subject to the observations and findings and modifications.

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Judgement reviewed by- Parvathy P.V.

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