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Female As Karta: The Role Of Karta-Power Dynamics And Gender Equality In Hindu Joint Families

Karta in a Hindu Joint Family:
Karta, the senior male member of the Hindu Joint Family, is responsible for managing all of the family's assets and looking after all of the other family members. In a Hindu joint family, he is the only person with the greatest power.
  • Ability to run a family business: Karta is the head of the family business and makes all the decisions that are required to ensure that profits are growing.
  • Control overall income and expenses: Karta is the Hindu Joint Family's sole source of income. He distributes funds to each member according to their requirements and decides when the HJF needs to make purchases.
  • Karta has the most authority in the Hindu Joint Family (HJF), hence he is in charge of all family matters and makes all decisions pertaining to them.
  • Karta will have the authority to represent the Hindu Joint Family in any legal proceedings in which it is a party. HJF is not a legal entity, as was determined in the case of Chotelal v. Jhandelal[1], hence it cannot be a party itself.
  • Any controversy or disagreement involving an HJF member or the HJF as a whole may be referred to arbitration by Karta, and the arbitrator's decision is binding on all members.
  • If done with good intentions, Karta has the authority to resolve any property disputes, family debts, or other issues.
  • Ability to acknowledge and enter into debts: Karta is able to borrow money and use it to settle a debt owed to a specific Hindu joint family member. But if he takes out a loan for the family company, everyone in the HJF is responsible for paying it back.
  • Ability to sign a contract: Karta is able to sign a contract that includes the Hindu Joint Family. In the agreement, he will speak for the HJF.
  • Power to alienate: Karta has the authority to alienate any property owned by the Hindu Joint Family if he did so out of necessity under the law, for the welfare of the estate, or in an urgent situation.

The following is the definition of "Karta" as stated in Article 236 of the Mulla Hindu Law:
  • Manager: For the time being, the father or other senior family members usually manage the property belonging to a joint family. The Manager of a joint family is known as Karta.

Who can become a Karta?
The Hindu Joint Family's senior male member becomes the Karta, and the next senior male member assumes the role in his absence. In the event that a senior Karta relinquishes his position, a junior coparcener may, with the approval of the other members, take over as Karta. In the case of Narendra Kumar J. Modi v. CIT[2], this was decided.

Who are Coparceners?
Within a Hindu Joint Family is a particular class known as coparceners. Only the male members of the Hindu Joint Family are listed here. All co-owners are entitled to use the HJF's property. They come from four generations in a row, with the oldest of these becoming the Karta of the Hindu Joint Family. The coparcenary begins, in accordance with the Mitakshara Law, with the birth of the family's first son.

The question of whether women should be included in the definition of a coparcener and even Karta has generated a lot of discussions.

Female as a Karta or Coparcener:

In the event that the division is made, certain ladies are entitled to shares. According to the Hindu Women's Right to Property Act of 1987, when a coparcener passes away and leaves a widow, the father's wife, mother, and grandmother are entitled to a part. To the extent of her husband's part of the property, she will be allowed to take it.

In the past, it was customary for the Hindu Joint Family's Karta to be the oldest male member; as a result, a female was never given the honour. Karta has always been a member of the coparceners, hence women have never been a part of them.

According to certain courts, only a coparcener is eligible to become the Karta of HUF. The same was decided by the court in Commissioner of Income Tax v. Seth Govindram Sugar Mills Ltd[3].

Can the Widow be a Karta?
Every Karta is chosen from among the coparceners; a widow is not a coparcener.

In the case of Radha Ammal v. Commissioner of Income Tax[4], it was determined that a widow lacks the legal qualifications to serve as manager of a Hindu joint family, known as a karta because she is not regarded as a coparcener.

However, the presence of females in the concept of coparcener or Karta was interpreted in a variety of ways. In the case of CIT v. Seth Laxmi Narayan Raghunathdas[5], the Hon'ble High Court reasoned that since a widow might be a coparcener under Dayabhaga[6] Law, she could even be the family's Karta, particularly if she was the only member sui juris still alive.

The court noted that this right or the status of a coparcener is not a requirement for being the Karta of a joint Hindu family to which she has been admitted, as is the case under Mitakshara[7] Law, where along with male coparcener a female may not be a coparcener because she does not possess the right of survivorship.

However, a widow may be nominated as a Karta of the Hindu Joint Family in times of need. In the case of C.P. Berai v. Laxmi Narayan[8], the court decided that a widow could be a Karta if there are no other adult male family members left. Any Karta should act in the Hindu Joint Family's best interests, and if a widow has the desire to do this, she should be chosen as the Karta.

What led to the debate over whether a woman may be a Karta in a Hindu Joint Family?
The Dharmashastra has proven to be a reliable source that granted women the authority to function as the Karta of the Hindu Joint Family and carry out any tasks that are essential or potentially advantageous to the Hindu Joint Family. According to Dharmashastra, women are permitted to manage the Hindu Joint Family.

Following this source, it was determined in the case of Pandurang Dahke vs. Pandurang Gorle[9] that any adult family member, male or female, has the right to administer a Hindu joint family in their best interests and for their advantage. According to Justice Puranik's interpretation of this ruling, a mother can manage a Hindu joint household.

Females as Karta Position before 1956
Hindus in India are governed by customary rules that vary by location and are taught in various schools. Women have always been viewed as being less intelligent and physically capable than men. Hindu women are subjected to inequity and oppression by the patriarchal society in India because they have little respect for their property rights.

Therefore, current property laws discriminate against women and only benefit men. Stridhana and Women's Estates were the only two forms of property that women could own. which the female woman had little control over. They could not become Karta or take any part in the family's property because they had zero control over it and could not inherit it from their father.

The Hindu Succession Act, of 1956
A standard system of inheritance and succession is established by this act, which was passed to codify the rules relating to succession and property. The restricted estate and restricted owner rights enjoyed by Hindu women are eliminated. After the passage of this act, the female is granted complete authority and unrestricted property rights over her possessions. Although strident was eliminated, there were still many uncertainties that constrained the power of the female. Married daughters had no claim to the father's property or share of the inheritance. A female was also not regarded as a Karta or coparcener.

Amendment in Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005

With the passage of the Hindu Succession Amendment Act, of 2005, a significant step was taken towards reducing gender inequality and discrimination in order to stop the gender prejudice that has long existed in Indian households and to ameliorate the precarious position of women in society. Daughters of a Hindu Joint Family now have equal property rights as a result of this modification.

In a Hindu Joint Family, a daughter can now be a coparcener in the same way as a son can. After being married, she joins her husband's Hindu Joint Family but continues to be a member of her father's Hindu Joint Family. She is eligible to use all the privileges accorded to any cohabitant, both before and after marriage.

She may have a claim to the Hindu Joint Family's property and may also alienate it through a will or a sale. If any co-owner dies, the daughter will also inherit the property, just like the sons do. If a female coparcener passes away prior to division, her children would be qualified to claim the property because they would have been entitled to it in the future. As the legal successor of a pre-deceased son of the Hindu Joint Family, a pre-deceased son's widow is entitled to a portion of the property. She will retain this interest in the Hindu Joint Family property even if she gets remarried.

The daughter, mother, widow, predeceased son's daughter, and his widow, predeceased son's widow, and daughter's daughter are all entitled to their respective shares as per the requirements of Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.

Female as a Karta
Prior to the change to the Hindu Succession Act, women were not granted the opportunity to serve as coparceners or be Kartas. The daughter of a coparcener shall by birth become a coparcener in the same way as the son under the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, which was done with consideration for and respect for the status of a female member. In the case of Shreya Vidyarthi vs. Ashok Vidyarthi & Ors[10]., this was upheld.

What will be the power of a female as a Karta?
In certain earlier judgements, such as Sushila Devi Rampura v. Income-tax Officer[11], the court determined that the mother serves as the minor male member of the Hindu Joint Family's natural guardian. Therefore, the mother may speak for the Hindu Joint Family in a matter involving income tax assessment and recovery.

However, the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi has recently interpreted the amendment of 2005 in a way that will extend the application of the amendment to not only the Hindu women who will be recognised as coparceners in a way similar to the son but also recognise the eldest woman member of the Hindu Undivided Family as the Karta of the Hindu Undivided family and its properties. This case is Sujata Sharma v. Mannu Gupta[12].

Remember that a woman's inability to be a Karta was only prevented by the fact that she was not a coparcener in a Hindu Joint Family. They now have the same rights as a son under Mitakshara law. The instantaneous consequence of a son being a coparcener is that a daughter may likewise do so. Therefore, it is impossible to make a convincing case against daughters becoming Kartas. A widow is never a coparcener, thus she will never become a karta when it comes to the subject of whether or not she is a Karta.

India's strict regulations have traditionally resulted in the marginalisation of women. According to the Karta idea, the eldest male member of the Hindu Joint Family shall be responsible for looking after its members and property. Women were never taken into account until recently when India's legal system and court used their positions of power and influence to enforce gender equality.

A woman cannot become a coparcener, according to the earlier justification offered by the courts, because one of the coparceners has been appointed as a Karta. Daughters now have the same rights in the Hindu Mitakshara coparcenary property as sons do thanks to a 1956 revision to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act.

The Hindu Successions Act was amended in 2005, paving the door for women to become coparceners in Hindu Joint Families and candidates for the Karta position. Justice has frequently been obstructed by a person's ignorance of their legal rights or the law, as has been observed. Because of this, the legislation and amendment should make it easier for women to live their lives comfortably and to be aware of their legal rights.

It is important to take action to ensure that people have the knowledge and strength to assert their rights. The disagreement between the judges' perspectives on whether or not to include females in the scope of coparcener and Karta has been thoroughly covered in this article. The reader will learn about the history of the position of women in Hindu Joint Families as well as the idea of Karta.

  • Family Law by Dr. Paras Diwan
  1. Chotelal v. Jhandelal
  2. Narendra Kumar J. Modi v. CIT
  3. Commissioner of Income Tax v. Seth Govindram Sugar Mills Ltd
  4. Radha Ammal v. Commissioner of Income Tax
  5. CIT v. Seth Laxmi Narayan Raghunathdas
  6. Dhayabhaga � Reformist School
  7. Mitakshara � Orthodox School
  8. C.P. Berai v. Laxmi Narayan
  9. Pandurang Dahke vs. Pandurang Gorle
  10. Shreya Vidyarthi vs. Ashok Vidyarthi & Ors
  11. Sushila Devi Rampura v. Income-tax Officer
  12. Sujata Sharma v. Mannu Gupta

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