Son Must Shoulder both Assets and Liabilities of Deceased Father: Madras High Court

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In a recent development Madras High court has ruled that sons when they inherit from their father, they inherit not only their assets but also their liabilities.

Facts

A petition was filed in High Court of Madras by A. Ravichandran against an order of Chennai Corporation Zonal Officer by which he was asked to pay 10 lakh rupees as the liability to one Adhilakshmi.  Adhilakhmi is the legal heir of Mr. Narasimhan a sanitary worker hired for cleaning drains. Mr.Narasimhan died in course of his employment when he was washing a septic tank in the house owned by petitioner’s father.

Issues

There were 2 main issues in front of the Hon’ble High Court

  1. Is Mr. A.Ravichandran liable to pay 10 lakh rupees to Adhilakshmi?
  2. Is delay of 15 years in asking for compensation justified on the part of Adhilakshmi?

Judgement

Petitioner contended that compensation money was already paid by his father and delay of 15 years in asking for compensation is not justified and the order of Chennai Corporation Zonal Officer should be quashed.

Justice S. Vaidyanathan did not accept petitioner’s contention and disposed of the writ petition filed by petitioner saying that “When a father’s assets are passed on to his sons after his death, so are his liabilities,”.

He further elaborated his reasoning by stating concept pf pious obligation mentioned in Dharma Sastras, he added that non-payment of debt leads to unbearable suffering in the next world and is a great sin. Furthermore, he gave the example of Lord Rama’s obligation to satisfy his father’s promise to his step-mother

Your lordship, however, reduced the total amount to be paid from 10 lakh to 7.5 lakh and added that the said amount will be paid through online bank transfer to circumvent the complaints of government officials asking commission before handing over cheques to the beneficiaries.

Court held the petitioner and the official jointly, severally and vicariously liable to pay compensation to the legal heir of the deceased. Out of the award of 7.5 lakh rupees, Petitioner was ordered to pay an amount of 5 lakh rupees and the remaining 2.5 lakhs was to be paid by the corporation. Moreover, Court also added that this award shall not prevent Adhilakshmi and other legal heirs to claim the balance amount of 2.5 lakh provided they are able to prove that there was no delay on their part in claiming the amount.

Learning outcome

From this case, we learn that when it comes to inheritance children inherit assets and liabilities as well from their parents. The law won’t allow the innocents to feel unsafe. One cannot deny the existence of any liability just because the person liable is dead. Liability will carry on and the heir must provide for the discharge.

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