Question: Mr. P. Karta of a joint Hindu family died in 1971 leaving behind him five sons and their respective families. PS being the eldest son became the Karta of the joint family. Y is the eldest daughter of PS. As time passed all five sons also died. Later one of the sons X of the younger brother of PS declared himself the Karta by virtue of being the eldest male member of the family. This claim of X was challenged by Y that after the death of her father and her uncles, she being the senior most members of the Joint Hindu family, is entitled to be the Karta of the family. Decide, in the light of recent developments of Hindu Law. [HPJS 2018]
A Karta is the head of the joint Hindu family, the person who takes care of everything in that joint family. Karta holds a very crucial position in a Joint Hindu Family. He holds a prominent position along with several responsibilities related to the family. He can be regarded as a person having ample power in the family.
In the Hindu Joint family, the most senior male member is generally regarded as the Karta. In the absence of such a member, the next senior male member will take the position. In exceptional cases, there can be two Karta, but there are very rare cases where female members acted as a Karta.
Since ancient times the concept of Karta has always been seen as male-dominated. This resulted in only males succeeding as Karta in Hindu Undivided families, and the trend continued in the post-independence era as well. The Mitakshara School says that in marriage, the wife entails ownership rights to her husband’s property; similarly, daughters have this right at birth. But under Mitakshara law, there is a distinction between males and females, which says that the status of the women is bound to the family. Their rights over such properties can arise only when they belong to the family.
Under Hindu law, it’s a presumption that ordinarily, the senior most male member of the Hindu Undivided family is the Karta of that family. He does so automatically as he has such rights by birth and does not owe his position to the agreement or consent of other coparceners.
Under Hindu Law, only lineal male descendants have a right by birth to familial property. And till 2005, even the coparcenary was exclusive to male members only.
In the case of Pandurang v. Pandurang AIR 1947 Nag 178, it was held by the Nagpur High Court that the mother can become Karta if there is no other adult coparcener here the Supreme Court does not agree with this view in the case of Commissioner of Income Tax v. Seth Govind Ram Sugar Mills, AIR 1966 SC 24.
It was in 2005 when the amendment was brought in the Hindu Succession Act with the aim to remove gender discriminatory provisions regarding the right to property. It was indeed a great initiative by the Supreme Court to provide equal rights to both daughters and sons.
The major achievement was including all daughters, especially the married daughters, as coparceners in the HUF by amending the provision which excluded the rights of daughters from the coparcenary property. A female member, the daughter of a coparcener, shall by birth become a coparcener in the same way as the son. This was upheld in the case of Shreya Vidyarthi v. Ashok Vidyarthi & Ors., AIR 2016 SC 139.
Before the amendment of 2005, a female was not given a chance to be a coparcener, as she was not considered empowered enough. But after the amendment, the position of a female member has improved, and the daughter has gained the right to be a coparcener by birth.
Also, in recent cases like Sujata Sharma v. Mannu Gupta, (2016) 226 DLT 647, the Delhi High court has established that the 2005 amendment should be applicable in a way that not only the Hindu women will get their rights as the coparcener in the same way as a son does, but also the eldest woman member of the Hindu Undivided family has the right to be recognized as the Karta of that family and its property.
In the present case in question, on the basis of recent developments and cases, it can be safely concluded that Y, the daughter of PS, being the most senior member of the Hindu Joint family, is entitled to be the Karta of the family.