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The powers and obligations of the Karta of the Joint Hindu family

Karta is usually the senior most member of the family and who is a coparcener, and who is capable of becoming Karta with a will to continue at his own discretion and choice. The position of Karta in a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) is of great importance. The Karta can also be called the manager who has the charge of handling property related affairs of the family. Its position holds so much responsibility and has not been defined in any statue. Physical and mental proficiency is also expected from Karta.

Suraj Bunsi Koer V. Sheo Prasad (1880 ILR 5 Cal 148): In this case it was observed by the court that the unique position of Karta in a Hindu Joint Family can be considered equivalent to a manager with the power of handling the property.

The responsibility of Karta is not only of a manager but can be considered to be by birth. It can be further managed by resignation or relinquishment where the post is not considered indefeasible.

Eligibility to become Karta

  1. It is considered that the senior most male member is the Karta of the Joint Family. It was observed in Shreeama v. Krishnavenama, 1957 A.P. 434 that Karta must be a coparcener.
  2. This position of responsibility is not any positional agreement or can be owed on the consent of other coparceners.
  3. As long as the individual lives irrespective of age, infirm or ailing he will continue to be the Karta.
  4. In the case of Man v. Gaini, 1918 40 All. 77 it was observed by the court that even a leper can be Karta
  5. The accountability can not be held to him as well as his discretions can not be scrutinized when the act is done with a bonafide intention and in the best intrest of the family. This was even observed in the case of Vaikuntam Pillai v. Avudiappa Pillai, AIR 1937.
  6. The wrongful use of Hindu Joint Family property for the purpose other than for family property can held the Karta accountable. He may even have to refund the amount of the HJF. This was observed in the case of Abhay Chandra Roy v. Pyari Mohan Guho, 5 B.L.R. 347.
  7. In the case of Siddappa v. Linappa (42 Mys. HCR 669) it was held by the court that ��if there is nothing to show that the father is in a remote country or his whereabouts are not known or his return within a reasonable time is out of question, the next senior most male member can not claim to be a Karta
  8. The Karta can not be removed but can further relinquish himself on his right and responsibility. In situations the family member can choose the next Karta.
  9. In the case of Nemi Chand v. Hira Chand (2000)1 HLR 250 (Raj) it was held that another coparcener, not necessarily next in seniority may be appointed as a Karta.
  10. In the case of Mudit v. Rangal (1902) ILR 29 Cal 797 it was held by the court that it is necessary for all the members of the HJF to be present while choosing the next Karta.
  11. In the case of Nopany investments pvt ltd v. Santokh Singh AIR 2008 SC 673 the Court has provided grounds for the younger male member to be a Karta:
    1. When the whereabouts of the father is unknown or when senior most member is not available.
    2. while relinquishing the rights of Karta the individual has be convey it expressly or by necessary implications.
    3. In the absence of Karta in exceptional case such as distress or calamity affecting the whole family and for supporting the family.
    4. If the Karta is away in a remote place, due to compelling circumstances and his return within a reasonable time is unlikely.

There can be only One Karta but two member can manage the affairs of HJF.

In the case of Sarda Prasad v. Unmeshwar Prasad, (1963) ILR Pat 274, it was observed by the court that a minor can also be a Karta and can represent the family through the guardian.

Powers of a Karta

The responsibility that Karta holds has some powers which are discussed as follows:
  1. The Karta has the Power of alienating joint family property.
  2. Power of Management
    • This power of management is almost absolute. He may manage the family affairs in the way he likes and finds appropriate and can not be questioned.
    • There is no obligation of Karta to save or economise, no obligation to invest funds, or to invest them properly.
    • The discrimination may be there in between the family member which the Karta can do according to his will but he cannot deny the maintenance or use and occupation of property to any coparcener.
    • Coparcener can seek alienation anytime.
  3. Power to Income
    • The income of Joint Family Property, it does not matter whosoever may collect them the amount must be handed over to the Karta unless he has specifically allotted income of particular property to a member.
    • Under the rules of Mitakshara Joint family, no member of Hindu Joint Family can be entitled to any definite share of income of the Joint Family Property or business this power of decision is completely on Karta.
  4. Right to Representation
    • The Karta of the family represents the family in all matters, legal, social and religious. He may act on behalf of the family and his acts are binding on the entire Hindu Joint Family.
    • The existence of Hindu Joint Family is not corporate. It may act in all matters through the Karta of the family.
    • The Karta can enter into any transaction on behalf of the family and which can be held to be binding in nature on all the members of Hindu Joint Family.
    • Hindu Joint Family can be bound by any decree or order passed in legal proceedings.
  5. Power to compromise
    The Karta hold the power to compromise all disputes relating to family property or their management. He can also compromise a suit pending in a court on behalf of the family.
  6. Power to contract debt
    It is implied authority to contract debts and pledge the credit of the family for ordinary purposes. Such debts incurred in the ordinary course of business, are binding on the entire family.
  7. Power of Alienation
    The Karta of a joint Hindu family is, generally prohibited from alienating the property but in the following circumstances, the Karta can alienate the joint family properties:
    1. When there is any legal necessity; or
    2. for the benefit of estate; or
    3. Acts of indispensable duty.
In situation where A Karta running a hotel business, mortgaged the family property with a view to raise funds for renovation and reconstruction of the hotel the case of Gollamudi Sivakumari v. Indian Overseas Bank is applicable. In this case the Karta running a hotel business alienated Hindu Joint Family Property by mortgage to raise funds for the renovation of the hotel, and such an alienation was considered to be a valid one for the benefit of the estate. Hence, in the given instance the alienation must be considered to be valid.

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