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Women can be Karta of HUF: Delhi High Court

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Women can be Karta of HUF: Delhi High Court

Citation- Mrs. Sujata Sharma vs Shri Manu Gupta (Delhi High Court), CS(OS) 2011/2006, Date of Judgment: 22-12-2015
Delhi High Court’s Landmark Judgement That Paved the Way for Women to Be Karta of a huf.
In a judgment that is expected to have far reaching ramifications, the Delhi High Court has ruled that a female member of a Hindu Undivided Family can also be the ‘karta’
Falling prey to the patriarchal system, this role of leadership has been traditionally inherited by men of the household. This gave rise to familial disturbance, conflict between siblings and a lot of cases regarding to property rights.
The HC ruling is important because it takes the 2005 reform in the Hindu Succession Act to its logical conclusion.
Earlier, in his absence the next eldest male member after him is entitled to be the Karta, however with Delhi High Court’s decision, an eldest female member can become the Karta. This judgement is in line with ending gender discrimination and prevalent gender bias prevelant in traditional families.
Who can become Karta of a HUF?
An adult male member who manages the affairs of the HUF is known as Karta or Manager of the family. Only a co-parcener can become Karta. Generally, the senior most member of the family is made Karta of HUF. However, such senior member may give up his right of management and a junior member may by consent, be appointed as Karta. Where a junior member is in custody, control or possession of the property or the eldest member is not working in the interest of the family or is working against the interest of the family, junior member may be recognized as Karta.
“Karta” is usually used to describe the main family member and is traditionally inherited by men. The Karta occupies a position superior to that of other members and has full authority to manage property, rituals or other crucial affairs of the family.
The Delhi high court while hearing a case pronounced that “If a male member of a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), by virtue of his being the first-born eldest, can be a Karta, so can a female member. The court finds no restriction in law preventing the eldest female co-parcenor of an HUF, from being its Karta.
The ruling came on a suit filed by the eldest daughter of a business family in north Delhi staking claim to be its Karta on the passing of her father and three uncles. The eldest son of a younger brother declared himself to be the next Karta. But, he was challenged by the daughter of the eldest brother.
The family consisted of four brothers, with the surviving eldest shouldering the responsibility of Karta. Trouble began when the brothers passed away. The eldest son of a younger brother declared himself to be the next Karta, but was challenged by the daughter of the eldest brother who is also the senior most member of the family.
The term co-parcenor refers to rights derived in Hindu law to be the joint legal heir of assets in a family. Traditional Hindu view, based on treatises such as Dharmshastra and Mitakshara school of law, recognises only male inheritors to ancestral property. Amendments to the Hindu Succession Act in 2005 introduced section 6 that levelled the playing field for women.
The HC ruling is important because it takes the 2005 reform in the Act to its logical conclusion. While the amendment restricted itself to providing women equal inheritance rights, the verdict now allows them to manage property and rituals of a joint family. There is no reason why Hindu women should be denied the position of a Karta.
There are several arguments, such as that making a woman the Karta would lend respectability to her position and in making women the Karta, society’s maltreatment of women might reduce — since women will be true equal ‘coparceners’ (as granted by the Constitution and then remedied by The Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005). There is a view that women are incapable of ‘running business’ or ‘managing affairs’ by those who oppose women’s place as the Karta, which is untrue. Women becoming Karta would help increase awareness, literacy among women.
The judgment is major step towards woman empowerment in the society and would have far reaching ramifications.

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