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Karta Of Joint Family: Position, Power, Privileges

The joint family system has been a fundamental aspect of India's rich cultural legacy. The Karta is one of the key players in this family system, and he has a very important role. As the leader of the joint family, the Karta is bestowed with a number of duties, authority, and rights that are vital to preserving the unity and stability of the family.

Who is a Karta?

The karta is the collective name for the joint family manager. If a male family member is deemed otherwise suitable, the oldest member in a mixed Hindu family is regarded as the family's karta.As the head of the family, he is the custodian or guardian of the family's assets and affairs as well as its interests he is neither the family's agent nor trustee.

The combined Hindu family's karta is unquestionably the manager of the joint family property, but undoubtedly possesses powers which the ordinary manager does not possess.

The position of a Karta is determined by his birth and his seniority in the joint family but is not permanent because a position of a karta maybe relinquished through resignation

More than one Karta:

There can be more than one karta it was held in Union of India v. Sri Ram Bohr ; this authority is based not on any Hindu laws but on the members of the family who confer this authority on them. The most important qualification required to become a Karta is that the person should be a coparcener in the family

Junior as Karta:

Junior member cannot become a karta as long as senior member is present. A Junior person can become a Karta with the consent of all coparceners this came out in the case of Narendra Kumar v. CIT . In the event that a juvenile is the sole remaining candidate for manager, he may do so provided a competent guardian is appointed to represent him.

The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, recognizes under Section 21 that children are capable of holding administrative positions within an intact household.

Female as Karta:
A female member cannot be a Karta but in a certain circumstances she can act as a Karta when there is an absence of a male member or there is a male member but that member is Minor.

The Nagpur High Court has held that in the absence of an adult male member even the mother can act as Karta although she may not be a coparcener however in In Commissioner of Income Tax Vs. Govindram Sugar Mills , held that as women were not coparceners and this debarred them for being Karta as well as was further held in Sahdeo Singh V. Ramchabila Singh. This was the held position in the pre 2005 era, however with the amendment to section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act coming in the year 2005, women have been allowed as coparcener that also qualifies them to become Karta of the family, provided they are the senior most members and a recent judgement from the Delhi High court on the case of Manu Gupta v. Sujata Sharma "Woman Can Be 'Karta' Of Hindu Undivided Family; Hindu Law Doesn't Limit Women's Right To Be HUF Karta "

Position of Karta:
  • Karta is sui generis (of his own kind); the relationship between him and members is not like principal or like a partner in a partnership firm.
  • It is the duty of the karta to see all reasonable wants of the members are satisfied.
  • If the karta fails to fulfill his duty, then the member could enforce it by legal action.
  • The karta represents his joint family on all matters whether they are Religious, Social, or Legal.
  • His power of management is so wide and almost sovereign that any manager of a business firm pales into insignificance. The karta stands in a fiduciary relationship with the other members but he is not a trustee.
  • He obtains no rewards for his service and he discharges many burdensome responsibilities towards the family and its members.

In case of Raghunanda v. Brozo Kishoro the court said that An undivided Hindu family is typically joint in estate, food, and worship, requiring regulation of their commensality and religious duties by members or a business manager. This includes matters related to their commensality and observances, which have been explicitly or implicitly delegated to them.

In Radhakrishna v. Kuluram, the Supreme Court held that the Karta can enter into any transaction on behalf of the family and it will be ordinarily binding on the members

The karta may file lawsuits or other legal proceedings to safeguard the interest of the family and its property and affairs Sheoshankar v. Jaddokunwar.

Power of Karta:

Legal power of Karta:
The karta is a legal representative who can file suits or take other legal proceedings to protect the family's interests and properties. They can effectively represent the family in proceedings, even if not named as such. When a transaction purports to have been entered into by two or more persons described as kartas or managers of the joint family, they must all join as plaintiffss in the suit. In Gendalal v. Nanalal the court said that not all members of the joint family should join in the suit. A minor or adult member of the family has no right to bring a suit to set aside a decree passed against the manager on the ground that the manager acted with gross negligence in the conduct of the suit. The reference may pertain to disputes between the family and an outsider or between family members themselves, such as shares on partition. The karta can refer disputes to arbitration or effect settlement or compromise, and a compromise entered into by the manager bona fide for the benefit of the family binds other members, including minors.

Power of Management:
Karta power of management is absolute no one can question the duties of karta like, he can manage or mismanage the property , family , business anyway he likes . Karta cannot deny the maintenance and occupation of property to any member. Karta is not liable for the positive failures.

Right to Income:
The manager of a family has control over income and expenditure, and is responsible for any surplus. The family's purposes include maintenance, residence, education, marriage, sraddha, and religious ceremonies for coparceners and their families. The expenses of each coparcener cannot be debited to the particular coparcener without usage. If the manager spends more than approved, they can demand a partition. As long as the manager administers funds for the family's purpose, they are not obligated to economize or save. However, they are liable to make good on any misappropriated or spent sums for other purposes.

Right to Representation:
The family is represented by the Karta in social, legal, and religious spheres. The members are bound by the decisions and actions of the Karta. Karta is able to transact on the family's behalf in any transaction

Power to Compromise:
Karta has the authority to mediate conflicts involving family property or administration. He has the ability to jeopardize ongoing legal actions, family debts, and other deals. The only legal defense available to heirs against the Karta's compromises is malafide.

Power to refer a Dispute to Arbitration:
Karta has the authority to send disagreements over family property and management to arbitration. The members of the joint family will be bound by the arbitration's decision if it is deemed valid.

Power to Contract Debts:
A Karta can acknowledge liability to pay family debts, discharge debts, and pay interest on borrowed money. If a promissory note is used to revive a time-barred debt, the manager is liable. If a decree is passed against a joint Hindu family manager regarding a liability for family necessities, the binding character depends on the manager's authority to incur the liability. If a manager borrows money to save family property and prevent disruptions, the necessity may be presumed, provided the lender acted in good faith. The manager's authority to borrow money is limited to reasonable commercial terms.

Power to enter into Contract:
The Karta has the ability to enter into agreements, and those agreements may be enforced against the family. The joint family members are bound by the contracts.

Power of Alienation:
For any reason, including a legal requirement or the estate's advantage, the Karta or manager may alienation the coparcenery property by sale or mortgage. The Karta can alienate someone without the other coparceners' permission, and if the alienation is necessary legally, the other coparceners will be bound by it. Any hostility expressed after the office is relinquished won't bind the other coparceners. However, a manager's alienation made without the consent of the others and without any family purpose or necessity is null and invalid, and it cannot be justified by the other members' subsequent confirmation. Karta has the power to Alienate the property under 3 options:
  • Legal Necessity
  • Benefit of Estate
  • Indispensable Duties
Legal Necessity:
No legal definition of this phrase can be found in any ruling or statute. It includes anything that is believed to be necessary to the family's members.

Benefit of Estate:
Anything done for the benefit of the joint family property is referred to as benefit of estate. As a manager, Karta is capable of doing anything that promotes family growth.

Indispensable Duties:
These phrases describe the carrying out of activities that are pious, compassionate, or religious. Matrimony is a example of important responsibilities. A Karta may alienate a piece of real estate for philanthropic purposes. The Karta's ability to alienate a significant amount of family property, whether it be movable or immovable, is restricted in this situation.

In a Hindu joint family, the karta, the eldest male, holds authority and manages family affairs. This role comes with privileges and responsibilities, influenced by local customs, traditions, and family dynamics.
Common privileges include:
  • Managerial Authority: The karta is primarily in responsibility for reviewing and deciding decisions for the joint family as a whole.
  • Religious Duties and Rituals: When it comes to carrying out religious ceremonies and rituals for the family, the karta usually takes the main role. In order to maintain the family's customs, he might take the lead in a variety of religious and cultural events.
  • Property Rights: The karta is in charge of family assets and properties, deciding how to use, maintain, and divide them.
  • Educational and Career Decisions: Younger family members' job and educational decisions may be influenced by the karta, who provides support and direction in these areas.
  • Planning about Inheritance: The Karta holds a significant position in matters of inheritance. They are responsible for assuring the fair distribution of family assets among their heirs, keeping in mind the principle of equality and justice.
  • Control over Family Members: The Karta also has the power to discipline family members who disobey the family rules and norms.
  • Decision Making Authority: The karta holds significant decision-making authority within the family, especially in matters that affect the entire household.
  • Control over family finance: He is not bound to divide the income generated from the joint property equally among the family members. The only thing is he should pay everyone so that they can avail basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter, etc.
  • The Karta in a family holds a unique position; his position is independent and no one can be compared with him among the family members. He has unlimited power, but even if he acts on behalf of other members, he can't be treated as a partner or agent. He is responsible to no one.
Challenges and Evolving Dynamics:
While the traditional role of Karta was well defined , the change in the society and certain legal reforms led to re evaluation of the position of a karta In contemporary times, joint families are facing challenges such as individual aspirations, career pursuits, and changing attitudes towards familial authority.
  • Gender dynamics: The Karta role's traditionally male orientation is being reconsidered. There is a shift in perspective toward viewing female members as possible Kartas because of the increased emphasis on gender equality. Legal modifications have also contributed to the dissolution of conventional gender roles in mixed families.
  • Legal Reforms: The situation regarding inheritance rights in joint families has changed as a result of legal reforms like the Hindu Succession Act. The Karta's autonomy in making decisions is increasingly impacted by legal frameworks that govern their role in allocating family assets.
  • Economic Independence: The Karta's authority over the family's finances may encounter opposition when family members gain financial independence. Younger generations can challenge the Karta's long-standing autocracy in economic concerns by pushing for a more democratic method of financial decision-making.
  • Role of Karta in modern times: In today's world, the role of Karta is certainly ending because there are not a lot of joint families as they feel that this approach is more outdated. For example, in a family where the father has two sons, as long as the father is alive, he is the Karta of the family. However, after the father's death, both the sons may want to become the Karta, leading them to leave and start a new family tree where they are the Karta, and their sons will take their orders. Today, the term Karta is outdated as most people now don't live in joint families; instead, they live separately from everyone.
In a Hindu joint family, the idea of Karta is not only a position of authority but also has many helpful purposes. A Hindu joint family is an complicated organization, and the karta easily provides the centralizing force required to ensure that all the responsibilities are fulfilled in a convenient manner. The karta reduces the bother of having various claims of action because it represents the entire joint family in matters pertaining to property or law. A major component of effective management is centralization, which the karta offers.

To stop any abuse of power, the karta has been given many checks in addition to its many powers. This guarantees that the karta serves the interests of the entire Hindu family. The law offers joint family members sufficient recourse to safeguard their interests in the event that the karta engages


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