Karta – Powers and Duties
Introduction to Karta
The joint Hindu family as an institution is peculiar to Hindu Jurisprudence and has its origin in ancient orthodox texts and writings. Though it originated in the propagation of the theory of conferring upon the father nearly absolute authority, however by efflux of time, the system was considerably changed to confer equal rights on the sons by birth. The joint Hindu family is a patriarchal organization, and the head of the family is known as Karta.
He is the senior-most male member of the family and as the head or manager of the family, he is the representative of the family and acts for or on behalf of the family. A Karta is a person in whom, others in the family repose confidence, so between the Karta and the family members, there is a fiduciary relationship because there is always a need for a manager to look after the welfare of minor members and females in a joint Hindu family.
Such a manager of the joint Hindu Family is known as the Karta of the family, and he enjoys immense powers in respect of the management of the affairs of the family and its property.
The position of Karta in a joint Hindu family is unique. He is that person who takes care of the whole family and its property and administers it, and all the members of the family remain in discipline under his control and are bound by his decisions. A Karta incurs unlimited liability and is representative of the family in all affairs. It has been said regarding the position of Karta that no one else is equivalent to him in the family. The position and powers are wider than anyone.
- Power over income and expenditure
- Power to manage the joint family business
- Power to contract a debt for family purposes
- Power to enter into contracts
- Power to refer to arbitration any matter involving the interest of the joint Hindu family and the other members of the family, including minors
- Power to enter into compromise in any matter relating to joint Hindu family property
- Power to give discharge to the debt due to joint family
- Power to acknowledge debts or make a part payment of it, so as to extend the period of limitation
- Power to represent in suits
- Power of alienation of joint Hindu family property
But this does not mean that he is a dictator. His position is extremely sensitive. He has to move along with all the members. Thus the position of the Karta is a mixture of rights and duties. He has to maintain the balance between rights and duties.
In Dudhmath v. Satnarain Ram AIR 1966 All. 315, the Court observed that in order to uphold an alienation of joint Hindu family property by the father or the manager, it is not only necessary to prove that there was a legal necessity but also that the father or the manager acted like a prudent man and did not sacrifice the property for inadequate consideration.
Duties and Liabilities
- He has the duty to render accounts to the other coparceners regarding the income from joint family property and expenditure thereon.
- He has the duty to realize the debt due to the family.
- He has the duty to spend the joint family funds only for the purposes of the family and should spend reasonably.
- It is the duty of Karta not to start a new business without the consent of other coparceners.
- It is the duty of Karta not to alienate the coparcenary property without legal necessity or benefit to the estate.
What is Benefit of estate?
Karta for improvement of property or for preserving some property from extinction or for consolidation of land holding can alienate some property instead purchase some property elsewhere. However, he has to exercise his own prudence in such cases and if he makes and error of judgment, he shall not be held responsible for the same unless a fraud has been alleged against him.
Karta is bound to do numerous duties. It means certain legally binding duties which the Karta has to fulfill. For example, there is any civil/criminal proceeding pending, marriage expenses, pind daan, funeral expenses, maintenance of family members.
REMEMBER: Karta has unfettered power when to sale. Defense of benefit and necessity will come into question after sale has been made. A complete sale has to be made.
In Kehar Singh v. Nachitar Kaur & Ors, 2018, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, stated the following to be legal necessity:
Payment of government revenue.
Maintenance of coparceners and members of their family.
Marriage expenses of the male coparceners and their daughters.
The cost of necessary litigation which may be civil or criminal.
The payment of debts incurred for family businesses etc.
Who can be a Karta
- Hindu Law believes that the senior-most coparcener is the Karta of the family. Refer case of Ram v. Khera (1971).
- Any coparcener becomes Karta of the family because of his seniority, not because of anyone appointed him. Refer a case to this effect, Mann v. Jayani (1918) it was held that such a person till he lives continues as the Karta of the family although he may be aged, handicapped, weak or ill.
- However, any Karta becomes unsound mind then the senior-most coparcener would become the Karta.
Whether a Junior-most coparcenary becomes a Karta
Generally, it does not happen, but in the case of Narendra Kumar v. Income Tax Commissioner-1976, it was held that a junior coparcener could be the Karta with the consent or agreement of all the coparceners.
In another case of Harihar Sethi v. Ladu Kishore Sethi -2002, it was held by the Orissa High Court that a junior coparcener can be the Karta when the senior most coparcener waives his right of Karta then a junior member can become Karta.
Whether a mother can become a Karta
In the case of Pandurang v. Pandurang (1947), it was held by the Nagpur High Court that the mother could become Karta if there is no other adult coparcener here, the Supreme Court does not agree to this view in the case of Commissioner of Income-tax v. Seth Govind Ram AIR 1966 SC 24.
The Karta of a Joint Hindu Family at a time can only be one.
Position of Daughter
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 in the direction of providing 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).
In the recent case of Sujata Sharma v. Manu Gupta, the Delhi High Court held that a daughter can also be made a Karta by virtue of section 6 (1). Earlier, daughters could not be made a Karta.
Originally Published on: Jun 2, 2017