Karta in Hindu undivided family

Can women be a Karta in Hindu undivided family?

This article titled “Can Women be a Karta in Hindu undivided family”has been written by Nirbhay Singh a student of Lovely Professional University.

Abstract

In a Hindu joint family, Karta is the senior-most male ascendant and the head of the home. The family’s manager is Karta. The first time that women’s inheritance rights were guaranteed was in the Hindu Succession Act amendment of 2005. Previously only available to male heirs, women now have an equal right to inherit money. Women now have the same rights to Hindu Mitakshara coparcenary property as sons do under Section 6 of the 1956 Hindu Succession Act. The 2005 amendment did not, however, address a fundamental issue: Can daughters or women take the posts of managers or Karta of the Hindu Undivided Family?

The study employs a qualitative research design, specifically a literature review, to delve into this topic. Data is collected from various sources including books, scholarly articles, legal documents, and news reports. The analysis focuses on understanding the concept of ‘Karta’ in an HUF, the role of women in this context, and the legal provisions and court rulings related to this issue. The study reveals that recent legal amendments and court rulings have affirmed the position of women as Karta’s in HUFs. However, societal acceptance and implementation of these changes remain areas of concern. This paper contributes to the ongoing discourse on gender equality in familial roles within the context of Hindu law.

Key words

Karta, Hindu Succession Act Amendment 2005

Research Question

Question – Does Amendment of 2005 in Hindu Succession Act give rights to women to be Karta in Hindu Undivided Family?

Question – Can woman be a Karta in Hindu undivided family?

Research Methodology

  1. Research Design: The study will employ a qualitative research design, specifically a literature review. This approach allows for an in-depth exploration of the topic by analyzing various sources such as books, articles, and court rulings.
  2. Data Collection: The primary data for this research will be collected from various sources including books, scholarly articles, legal documents, and news reports related to the topic. The sources will be identified through databases such as JSTOR, Google Scholar, and legal databases like Westlaw and LexisNexis.
  3. Data Analysis: The collected data will be analyzed using thematic analysis. This involves identifying patterns or themes within the data. The analysis will focus on understanding the concept of ‘Karta’ in a Hindu Undivided Family, the role of women in this context, and the legal provisions and court rulings related to this issue.
  4. Validity and Reliability: To ensure the validity and reliability of the study, only credible and peer-reviewed sources will be used. Each source will be critically evaluated for its relevance to the research question.
  5. Ethical Considerations: As this research involves reviewing published literature, there are no significant ethical issues. However, proper citation and referencing will be ensured to avoid plagiarism.
  6. Limitations: The study is limited to the analysis of available literature and does not involve primary data collection such as interviews or surveys. Therefore, it may not capture all nuances of the issue.

Literature Review

  1. “Women as a Karta under Hindu Undivided Family” by Jasvan Ram — This paper discusses the role of women as a Karta under Hindu Undivided Family. The author explains that Karta is the senior-most male ascendant in a Hindu joint family and is the head of the household. The 2005 amendment on Hindu Succession Act was the first to guarantee women’s inheritance rights.
  2. “Position of Female as Karta of Hindu Joint Family” by Nishant Vimal —This article discusses the position of a female as Karta of the Hindu Joint Family. The author explains that Karta is the senior most male member of the Hindu Joint Family and is the person who is the manager of all the properties of the Hindu Joint Family.
  3. Bhotika, Abhyuday. (2011). Status and Role of a Karta – A Critical Study. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Due to a 2005 modification to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, daughters now have the same rights to Hindu Mitakshara coparcenary property as sons do. The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 still forbids a woman from serving as Karta under normal circumstances. Only two unique situations—when there are no male family members and when there are young male family members—allow a woman to be a Karta, as per the ancient Hindu law known as the Dharmashatras. The paper goes into greater detail to comprehend the Karta concept, the relationship between Karta and HUF, Does a woman meet the requirements to be a Karta? Position, liabilities, authority, ability to alienate, and treatment of separate property of Karta.

  1.  Kaviya, “KARTA AND HIS POWERS: AN OVERVIEW” International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics Volume 120 No. 5 2018, 4695-4705 ISSN: 1314-3395 (online version) http://www.acadpubl.eu/hub/

The author of this essay discusses the background and evolution of Karta. The author outlines the Karta’s responsibilities and abilities in detail. This study makes an effort to clearly analyze both Karta’s ancient works and their sources of funding. The article makes an effort to trace the origins of Karta and then their purposes. A woman cannot be the coparcener, hence the author claims that a female member is ineligible to be the Karta. The mother could act as the guardian if all of the sons are minors, but she cannot be the Karta.

  1. Singhal, Shivani. “Women as Coparceners: Ramifications of the Amended Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.” Student Bar Review, vol. 19, no. 1, 2007, pp. 50–67. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/44308350

The 2005 amendment to section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 has sharply overturned the traditional notion of a coparcenary by bringing within its fold daughters as well. It has raised a lot of difficult questions. It is now uncertain how this transition would impact concepts like reunion which were hitherto governed by traditional Hindu law. The new provision itself is ambiguously worded and is open to anomalous interpretations. This article attempts to highlight these ambiguities and anomalies. It also looks at the possible ways in which they may be resolved in future.

Introduction

The institution of the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) is a unique phenomenon that is found only in Indian society, which is governed by the Hindu law. The concept of HUF is based on the idea of a joint family system, where all members of a family live together, and the family’s assets are managed by a single member known as the ‘Karta’. Traditionally, the Karta has always been a male member of the family, usually the eldest. However, in recent years, there has been a growing debate about whether a woman can become a Karta in an HUF.

This research paper aims to explore this topic in depth, examining the legal provisions and judicial interpretations related to it. It will delve into the historical context of women’s roles in HUFs, analyze the impact of societal changes on these roles, and discuss recent court judgments that have challenged traditional norms. The paper will also seek to understand the implications of allowing women to become Karta’s in HUFs and how it could potentially transform the dynamics within Hindu families.

The objective is to provide a comprehensive understanding of this complex issue and contribute to the ongoing discourse on gender equality in Indian society. Through this research, we hope to shed light on an aspect of Indian law that is often overlooked but has significant implications for women’s rights and empowerment.

The 2005 amendment was the first to guarantee women’s inheritance rights. Women now have equal rights to inherit inherited money, which was previously only available to male heirs, according to an amendment passed in 2005. It is a significant step toward harmonizing the Hindu Law of Inheritance with the Constitution’s equality provision. The modification grants women the same rights in Hindu Mitakshara coparcenary property as Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 does for sons.

An important issue however, remained unaddressed by the 2005 amendment of Hindu Succession Act: Can daughters or women be permitted to hold the positions of managers or Karta of the Hindu Undivided Family? The 2005 amendment gave daughters in the coparcenary the same rights as those held by males.

Powers of Karta

The Karta, or the head of a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), has several powers and responsibilities according to the Hindu Succession Act. Here are some of them:

  1. Power to Represent: The Karta is the sole representative member of the joint family when it comes to any legal or social matter.
  2. Power of Management: The Karta is responsible for managing the joint family business, which involves entering into contracts, referring matters to arbitration, and acknowledging debts.
  3. Power over Income: The Karta is the custodian of the income and assets of the HUF.
  4. Power of Alienation: The Karta has the power to alienate joint family property, but this power is limited and can only be exercised in exceptional cases.
  5. Power to Compromise: The Karta has the power to enter into compromises.
  6. Power to Contract Debts: The Karta has the power to contract debt for family purposes.
  7. Power to Enter into Contracts: The Karta has the power to enter into contracts on behalf of the HUF.

The Karta also has several duties and liabilities, such as maintaining the family, marrying off unmarried members, rendering accounts, and representing the family in suits. He is liable to make good to other family members with their shares of all sums which he has misappropriated or which he spent for purposes other than those in which the joint family was interested.

Female as Karta position before 1956

In India, regional customs and various schools of thought dictate the laws that Hindus abide by. Historically, women have been perceived as physically and mentally weaker than men. The patriarchal nature of Indian society often overlooks the property rights of Hindu women, leading to their subjugation and inequality. Consequently, property laws tend to favor men and discriminate against women. Women are typically allowed to hold only two types of property – Stridhana and Women’s Estate, over which they have limited control. Given their lack of power and rights over property, and their inability to inherit from their father, women are traditionally not allowed to become Karta or have any involvement in family property.

The Hindu Succession Act 1956

This act was established to consolidate laws related to property and succession, introducing a standardized system for inheritance and succession. It abolished the limited estate and restricted ownership rights of Hindu women. With the implementation of this act, women were granted complete authority and absolute rights to manage and dispose of their property. Although the concept of Stridhana was clarified, there were still numerous ambiguities that limited women’s power. Married daughters were not entitled to their father’s property or partition. Furthermore, a woman was not recognized as a Karta or coparcener.

Woman as Karta

Historically, Hindu women in India have had limited restrictions on their inheritance rights. While they were never entirely excluded from inheriting wealth, their shares were significantly smaller than those of their male counterparts. Over time, perceptions of women have evolved, and their rights have expanded.

A significant milestone was the enactment of the Hindu Succession (Andhra Pradesh) Amendment Act, 1985. This law established that a daughter’s rights are always equal to those of a son, regardless of the circumstances. It argued that the Mitakshara system violated the fundamental rights of equality enshrined in Part IV of the Indian Constitution. The states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Kerala also amended their laws to include women as Coparcenary members. However, these changes were not universally adopted. Many Indian states, excluding the southern ones, adhered to patriarchal norms concerning property rights.

The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 was a significant step towards dismantling the age-old patriarchal practice that prevented women from inheriting property from male heirs and consequently becoming heads of their families or Karta. The 2005 amendment to this act was the first to guarantee women’s inheritance rights. As a result of this amendment, women now have equal rights to inherit wealth, a privilege previously reserved for male heirs only.

Powers and Duties of Karta under HUF

However, the 2005 amendment left one crucial question unanswered: Can daughters or women be allowed to hold managerial positions or become Karta of the Hindu Undivided Family? This question was addressed in a judgment by the Delhi High Court in the case of Sujata Sharma vs. Manu Gupta. The court ruled that it was legally untenable to grant female joint family members inheritance rights but deny them the right to be nominated as Karta.

The Delhi High Court also addressed whether a female who is the firstborn among coparceners of Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) property would be entitled to be a Karta by virtue of her birth. The court ruled that there are no legal restrictions preventing the eldest female coparcener of an HUF from serving as its Karta.

The courts initially argued that women could not become Karta because only a coparcener could be appointed as a Karta, and they could not be coparceners. However, as a result of the amendment to Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, daughters now have equal rights to Hindu Mitakshara coparcenary property as males do.

The 2005 amendment to the Hindu Successions Act has paved the way for women to become coparceners in a Hindu Joint Family and has entitled them to become Karta.

Shortcomings of 2005 Amendment

The most glaring oversight in the amendment, which raises questions about gender equality and women’s empowerment, is the continuation of Article 15. This section only recognizes women who are in relationships with men, such as wives and daughters, thereby undermining a woman’s individual identity. It fails to consider other categories of women, like sisters or daughters-in-law, who are not covered by the amendment and focuses solely on daughters and wives. Despite granting women the right to own property and even become coparceners, they were also given the opportunity to serve as the family’s Karta if they were the eldest. However, a widow is not allowed to serve as a family’s Karta. In the case of Income Tax v. G. S. Mills, the Supreme Court deliberated on whether women could become family Karta’s. The court ruled that while a widow could not be the family’s Karta, this did not preclude other women from holding this position in a joint family household.

Although the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 has brought about reformative change in a Hindu joint family, it contains many fallacies and ambiguities. The 2005 amendment to section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 has fundamentally challenged the traditional concept of a coparcenary by including daughters. However, it has raised several complex questions. It remains unclear how this transformation might impact principles previously governed by traditional Hindu law. The new provision itself is ambiguously worded and is open to various interpretations.

For example, it is unclear whether the children of daughters would also acquire the birthright of ancestral property based on a plain reading of the text used in Section 6. Furthermore, the implications of making daughters coparceners by section 6 have not been considered in terms of other sections of the Act. Additionally, since women are only recognized as coparceners under this act based on their relationship with men, this hardly serves as a model for gender equality.

The coparcenary and the Hindu undivided family, traditionally patriarchal institutions, have historically denied women access to the family’s wealth. Both the 2005 Amendment and the Hindu Code Bill aimed to change this. Despite its original intention to abolish the Mitakshara coparcenary entirely, the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 incorporated the concept of coparcenary. The 2005 Amendment challenged traditional norms that prevented women from serving as coparceners or holding Karta positions in families. A coparcener’s interest would no longer diminish during their lifetime. While the interest in the Hindu Undivided Family will continue to decrease due to births, it will not increase due to deaths.

However, due to a lack of proper implementation laws, the recent amendment laws seem to fall short of delivering the equality promised to men and women. Women are still not recognized as natural inheritors despite the amendment, largely due to their unawareness of their rights, ignorance of the law, and lack of initiative to learn about their rights or the constitution. Many families’ pressures and manipulate women into relinquishing their share of their father’s estate for the benefit of their in-laws, even against their will. Consequently, she is kept alive out of greed for more property and endures severe abuse to appease her husband’s family. As such, the Act has had limited success in preventing such heinous crimes or protecting women’s rights and interests, which are prevalent in patriarchal societies.

Joint Hindu Family Business

Conclusion

The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 was a significant step towards gender equality in India, as it sought to provide equal rights to women in the context of inheritance and succession. However, it was the amendment made in 2005 that truly marked a turning point for women’s rights in a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF).

Before the amendment, the law recognized the system of coparcenary, which only included male members. The eldest male member, known as the Karta, had the right to manage the family’s property and affairs. Women were largely excluded from this system and had limited rights to property.

The 2005 amendment challenged this patriarchal structure by recognizing daughters as coparceners, giving them the same rights and liabilities as sons. This meant that women could now inherit property equally and were no longer dependent on the goodwill of their male relatives for their financial security.

Furthermore, the amendment opened up the possibility for women to become Karta’s of their families. This was a radical shift, as it not only gave women control over property but also over decision-making within the family. It recognized women as capable leaders and managers, challenging traditional gender roles.

However, despite these legal changes, many challenges remain. Women’s rights are often not fully realized due to societal attitudes and lack of awareness about the law. Many women are still not seen as natural inheritors and face pressure from their families to relinquish their share of property.

In conclusion, while the 2005 amendment to the Hindu Succession Act has made significant strides towards gender equality by recognizing women’s equal rights in HUFs, there is still much work to be done in ensuring these rights are fully realized in practice.

References

  1. Saxena, Poonam Pradhan. “JUDICIAL RE-SCRIPTING OF LEGISLATION GOVERNING DEVOLUTION OF COPARCENARY PROPERTY AND SUCCESSION UNDER HINDU LAW.” Journal of the Indian Law Institute, vol. 58, no. 3, 2016, pp. 337–49. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/45163395.
  2. A. Kaviya, “KARTA AND HIS POWERS: AN OVERVIEW” International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics Volume 120 No. 5 2018, 4695-4705 ISSN: 1314-3395 (on-line version) http://www.acadpubl.eu/hub/
  3. Paras Diwan, Family Law (2nd End. Orient Publishing Company, 2002)
  4. Singhal, Shivani. “Women as Coparceners: Ramifications of the Amended Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956.” Student Bar Review, vol. 19, no. 1, 2007, pp. 50–67. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/44308350.
  5. Bhotika, Abhyuday. (2011). Status and Role of a Karta – A Critical Study. SSRN Electronic Journal.
  6. Ram, Jasvan, Women as a Karta under Hindu Undivided Family (January 4, 2023). Available at SSRN:https://ssrn.com/abstract=4317909or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4317909
  7. Sujata Sharma vs. Manu Gupta (2016) 226 DLT 647
  8. Income Tax v. G. S. Mills AIR 1966

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