SC: Mere fact that sibling looked after the elder can’t prove undue influence

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 11th September 2019, in the matter of Raja Ram v. Jai Prakash Singh And Others pronounced 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.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that

Hardness of hearing by old age cannot be equated with deafness. (Para 10)

A person’s conduct in looking after the elderly may influence the thinking of such elderly. But that per se cannot lead to the only irresistible conclusion that such person gets in a position to dominate the will of such elderly. (This inference has been drawn on the basis of Para 11)

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. (Para 11)

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.(Para 11)

There can be no application of the law sans the facts of a case. The primary ingredients of the law need to be first established by proper pleading supported by relevant evidence. Cases cannot be decided on assumptions or presumptions. (Para 16)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_11-Sep-2019

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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