Woman can be ‘karta’of a family: Delhi high courtAbhinav Garg | TNN | Feb 1, 2016, 02.02 AM IST
• The ruling came on a suit filed by the eldest daughter of a business family in north Delhi.
• The HC ruling is important because it takes the 2005 reform in the Hindu Succession Act to its logical conclusion.
"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," Justice Najmi Waziri said in a judgment made public earlier this week.
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. These include taking decisions on sale and purchase of family assets, mutation of property etc.
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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. She was challenging her cousin 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 seniormost 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 court termed it "rather odd" that following the amendments, "while females would have equal rights of inheritance in an HUF property, this right could nonetheless be curtailed when it comes to the management of the same". Section 6 of Hindu Succession Act, it pointed out, did not place any restriction on women becoming the Karta.
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.
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Justice Waziri underlined that the "impediment which prevented a female member of a HUF from becoming a Karta was that she didn't possess the necessary qualification of co-parcenership", but section 6, "a socially beneficial legislation", removed that bar.
Justice Waziri said Section 6 gave "equal rights of inheritance to Hindu males and females, its objective is to recognise the rights of female Hindus and to enhance their rights to equality apropos succession. Therefore, courts would be extremely vigilant in any endeavor to curtail or fetter statutory guarantee of enhancement of their rights. Now that this disqualification has been removed by the 2005 amendment, there is no reason why Hindu women should be denied the position of a Karta."
The son maintained that Hindu law recognises the right of eldest male member to be the Karta. He claimed that even the 2005 amendment recognised the rights of a female to be equal to those of a male only with respect to succession to ancestral properties, not management of estate.