Removing any misgiving about the claim of a share in the joint family property, the Supreme Court has held that the parents have every right to deny the share to the negligent children who simply do not take care of them in old age when they need their help the most, but are virtually left in the lurch.
The apex court gave the ruling in dispute among three brothers over the property of their father Harishankar from Madhya Pradesh inherited by him as his share form joint Hindu family property in two partitions held earlier in 1965 and 1985.
Harishankar’s two sons —Vinod Kumar and Anand Kumar — did not bother to take care of their old parents. The parents lived with their third son Mahesh Kumar, who along with his wife, looked after them. A bench of Justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mukhopadyaya said: “There was nothing unnatural or unusual in the decision of Harishankar to give his share in the joint family property to appellant.”
Pointing out that Mr Vinod Kumar and Mr Anand Kumar even did not spend any money on the funeral and other last rites of their mother when she died in 1992, the Supreme Court said, “Any person of ordinary prudence would have adopted the same course and would not have given anything to the ungrateful children form his or her share in the property.”
“Neither of them bothered to look after the parents in their old age. The attitude of the two left Harishankar and his wife with no choice but to live with Mahesh, who along with his wife and children took care of the old parents and looked after them during their illness,” the top court said while declaring the Will executed by Harishankar in favour of Mahesh as valid in law even in respect of the joint family property.
The judgement is being seen as “innovative” by legal experts, especially in the context of the accepted principle of succession in the joint Hindu family property that makes every member entitled of his or her share as per the family tree. The principle so far established in several judgements of the top court was that the parents can give their self-acquired property to any one but cannot “bequeath” their share in joint family property in a Will contrary the legitimate hereditary share of each person in the family tree.
The judges said that they were not required to go so deep into the evidence about the manner Harishankar signed the Will in favour of Mahesh, which was challenged by Vinod and Anand. Their main focus was rather on the “unmistakably” clear evidence, which showed that the two sons had separated from the family and even had taken certain properties as their share, but after that they simply did not “bothered to take care of the old parents.”
The apex court also criticised the MP High Court for overlooking the vital fact that the parents needed the care by their all the children. The HC had overturned the lower court verdict declaring Harishankar’s Will in favour of Mahesh as valid. “We hold that the HC was clearly in error in reversing the well-reasoned finding recorded by the trial court,” the top court judges in their verdict recorded.