Karta is the eldest member of the Hindu undivided family who manages all the
family affairs and takes the decisions for everything. Co-parceners can only
become a Karta. Women play a significant role in every human being’s life. But
during ancient times, a woman was considered to be of low social status and
treated as a dependent with barely any property rights. They were not given any
rights as Karta or coparceners but now after the amendment, rights, powers are
given to female members too.
The article details the analysis of the rights of women before 1956, after the
enactment of the succession act, and after the amendment of the actin 2005. The
article highlights the current position and rights of females as Karta and
coparcener and the rights and power of a widow. Analysis of this scenario has
been made with reference to cases Shreya Vidyarthi vs Ashok Vidyarthi & Ors,
Mrs. Sujata Sharma vs Shri Manu Gupta & Ors among others.
Karta is the one who manages the Hindu undivided property and he is the head of
the family. A Hindu Undivided Family is a separate entity that is created by the
members of a particular family and these members are lineal descendants. Karta
is the senior-most male member of the family. He is responsible for all the acts
and functions within the family. The position of Karta is sui generis. Also
known as the manager, looks after the day to day expenses of the family and
family properties. The Karta has more powers than any member of the family. The
coparceners of the family can only become a Karta.
Female as Karta Position before 1956
In India, Hindus are governed by customary laws that varied from region to
region and are followed through different schools. From the earlier times, women
are considered physically and mentally inferior to men. The Indian patriarchal
society disregards the Hindu women’s right to property and she is made to suffer
inequality and oppression. So, these property laws are favouring only males and
discriminating against females. Women could hold only two types of property-
Stridhana and Women's Estate. Over which the female had meagre powers only.
Since they had absolutely no powers and rights over the property and cannot
inherit from their father, they could not become Karta or play any role in the
The Hindu succession act, 1956
This act was enacted to codify the laws related to succession and property and
it lays down a uniform system of inheritance and succession. The Hindu women’s
limited estate and limited owner rights are abolished. After the introduction of
this act, the female is given full power and absolute property rights to deal
and dispose of the property she owns. Though stridhana was cleared out, there
were a lot of ambiguities and limited the power of the female. Married daughters
had no right over the father's property and partition. Also, a female was not
considered as Karta or coparcener.
Hindu succession amendment act, 2005
A breakthrough in eradicating gender inequality and discrimination was
introduced and ensured after the introduction of the Hindu Succession amendment
act, 2005. This was to improve the adverse condition of the women in the
This act came into force on 9th September, 2005 incorporating the reforms
suggested in the 174th Report of the Law Commission of India. This amendment
deleted section 4(2) of the act and paved the way for equal rights of women as
men. The amendment of section 6 has elevated the daughters' position. According
to the newly amended provision, a woman by birth becomes a coparcener in the
same manner as a son. The daughter now has the same rights and liabilities as
that of a son. A daughter, after marriage, becomes a member of her husband’s
joint Hindu family but doesn’t cease to be the coparcener of her father’s
family. She fully enjoys the rights of the property of her father as well as her
Mrs. Sujata Sharma vs Shri Manu Gupta & Ors.
On 8 February, 2010
D.R. Gupta & Sons, HUF, whose Karta was D.R Gupta. He had 5 sons. After D.R.
Gupta's death, the eldest son became the Karta. Eventually, all the sons died
too. The defendant declared himself as the Karta of the family as he was the
eldest living male member. This claim was challenged by the plaintiff, as she is
the eldest member of the family after the death of her father and uncles. She is
the senior-most member/ coparcener of the family.
Can the eldest woman member of a Mitakshara Hindu Undivided Family be its Karta?
Pursuant to the said amendment, the daughters can also be coparceners of a
family as same as the son. Plaintiff being a woman would not be a reason for
disqualification from being a Karta. Since she is now a coparcener by birth too,
she has to be granted equal rights as that of a son and that also includes the
right to act as a Karta of the HUF. There were certain objections laid by the
defendant that equal rights did not extend to granting a daughter the right to
management of the HUF property. He also contended that the plaintiff is married
so she cannot make such claims.
It was held by the court that there is no reason why the Hindu women should be
denied the position of Karta. To become a Karta of the family one must be a
coparcener and that condition is fulfilled by the woman. So, by the virtue of
being the eldest daughter, the plaintiff can become a Karta.
This Landmark judgement made it very clear that a woman who is a coparcener can
also become a Karta of the family.
Can a widow be a Karta?
Shreya Vidyarthi vs Ashok Vidyarthi & Ors
On 16 December, 2015
Facts of the case
One Hari Shankar Prasad had two wives. After his death, the second wife took
care of the family and managed the day to day affairs. She was the nominee of an
insurance policy and was also receiving monthly maintenance from a trust. It was
contended that the property she bought was from her funds and joint family
funds. Later on, property disputes aroused.
The court observed that a Hindu widow is not a coparcener in the Hindu Undivided
Family of her husband and therefore, cannot act a Karta. But after his husband's
death, if they are no surviving male members/ coparceners in the family, the
widow can be the manager of the family to run the day-to-day affairs. The mother
of the minor male coparcener can take up the role of managing the family. She
can also take decisions regarding the family under particular circumstances.
In a very recent landmark judgement, the court by a three-judge bench held that:
- The provisions contained in substituted Section 6 of the Hindu
Succession Act, 1956 confer the status of coparcener on the daughter born
before or after amendment with equal rights and liabilities that of a son.
- The rights can be claimed by the daughter born earlier with effect from
9.9.2005 with savings as provided in Section 6(1) as to the disposition or
- Since the right in coparcenary is by birth, it is not necessary that the
father coparcener should be living as on 9.9.2005.
This landmark judgement was pronounced after a contrarian view over the issue
passed in many judgements including Prakash & others v. Phulati & others
this case, it was held that the amendment is prospective and applies only to
living daughters of living coparceners, irrespective of the date of birth of
daughters. However, in Danamma @ Suman Surpur v. Amar
, the court granted
coparcenary rights to the daughter of a coparcener who had died before 9.9.2005.
The virtue of the judgement, in the case Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma was to
bring a retrospective operation to the 2005 amendment act, it confers rights on
daughters from the time of their birth even if the birth took place before the
amendment and the father coparcener need not necessarily be living at the time.
The position of a Hindu woman in respect of her property has undergone
unprecedented changes from ancient times to date. This transformation of
exclusion to the recognition of Hindu daughters has been remarkable. This has
happened only after years of debates and struggles for equal rights of women.
But even today the exclusion of other Hindu Females is irrational and
unjustified. According to the Constitution of India, all women are entitled to
equal economic and social justice. Despite this progress, the females are still
at their lawful tights in the predominantly patriarchal society.
Even after such many changes and amendments brought for the betterment of Hindu
Women and equality among men and women, there are a large number of women who
are unaware and uneducated about their rights. They lack basic knowledge about
these legislations thus unable to fight for what is lawfully theirs. Men, on the
other hand, take advantage of this lack of awareness and neglect them from the
family property rights and powers.
So, after enactment, implementation of such
amendments is very crucial. True justice will be served only when women know
what is rightfully theirs and fight for it. For this women should be made aware
through campaigns and other mediums about their property rights and what can be
claimed by them, thus eliminating oppression and negation. Concerned efforts
should be brought by everyone for changing the mindset of people and promoting
equal rights for achieving gender equality.
- Vineeta Sharma vs Rakesh Sharma