Care For Elders ≠ Undue Influence

Deceased undisputedly was over 80 years. Plaintiff pleaded that by reason of age and sickness, the mental capacity of the Deceased was impaired. There is no evidence whatsoever of his mental status. There can be no presumption with regard to the same only because of old age to equate it with complete loss of mental faculties by senility or dementia. Ageing is a process which affects individuals differently at distinguishable ages. There is no credible evidence that Deceased was bed ridden. Hardness of hearing by old age cannot be equated with deafness. Looking after the Deceased and his Wife in old age may have influenced the thinking of the Deceased. But that per se cannot lead to the only irresistible conclusion that XYZ was in a position to dominate the will of the Deceased.

In every cast, creed, religion and civilized society, looking after the elders of the family is considered a sacred and pious duty. Nonetheless, today it has become a matter of serious concern. Parliament taking note of the same enacted The Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. We are of the considered opinion, in the changing times and social mores, that to straightway infer undue influence merely because a sibling was looking after the family elder, is an extreme proposition which cannot be countenanced in absence of sufficient and adequate evidence. Any other interpretation by inferring a reverse burden of proof straightway, on those who were taking care of the elders, as having exercised undue influence can lead to very undesirable consequences. It may not necessarily lead to neglect, but can certainly create doubts and apprehensions leading to lack of full and proper care under the fear of allegations with regard to exercise of undue influence. Law and life run together. If certain members of the family are looking after the elderly and others by choice or by compulsion of vocation are unable to do so, there is bound to be more affinity between the elder members of the family with those who are looking after them day to day.

Hon’ble Justice Navin Sinha, Raja Ram v. Jai Prakash Singh, [Civil Appeal No. 2896 of 2009].