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Joint Hindu Family

Hindu law emphasises the importance of a joint family. It is said that there is no way out of Joint Family for any Hindu. Perhaps in one generation or another, a Hindu will naturally form a Joint Family. According to Hindu law, there is a presumption that each family will be regarded a joint family. Before we get into the details of the Hindu Undivided Family, let's define what a join family is in layman's terms. A joint family, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is a living unit made up of two or more generations of a family and their spouses.

What is a Hindu Joint Family

The Hindu Succession Act of 1956 governs the Hindu Joint Family nowadays. It is a common occurrence in Hindu civilization. As previously said, it is unavoidable for a Hindu to form a combined family. The idea behind this is that if one generation is brought to an end by a partition, it will immediately reappear in the next generation. This lends credence to the notion that every Hindu family is a Joint Hindu Family.

In the cases of Rukhmabai vs. Lala Laxminarayan and Rajagopal vs. Padmini, it was determined that a family remains a joint family if it is united in matters of food, worship, and inheritance. Even though a family does not share food or worship, i.e., if they live apart, they might still be considered a Joint Hindu Family if they share an estate. In the case of Chhotey Lal & Ors. vs. Jhandey Lal & Anr., it was determined that a Joint Hindu Family is neither a company nor a juristic person because it lacks a separate legal entity from its members. A Joint Hindu Family is a unit that is represented in all affairs by the Karta of the family.

All family members make up a Hindu Undivided Family. In other words, all the male members descended from a common ancestor in a straight line up to any generation. Even an illegitimate offspring of a male descendent is a part of his father's Joint Hindu Family, according to the case of Gur Narain Das vs. Gur Tahal Das. Their mothers, wives, widows, and unmarried daughters are all included.

Until she marries, an unmarried daughter stays a member of the joint family. She becomes a member of her husband's Joint Hindu Family once they marry. However, if the daughter is abandoned by her husband or becomes a widow and permanently returns to her father's home, she re-joins the Joint Hindu Family, But her children remain a part of their father's joint family.

It is crucial to remember, however, that a Joint Hindu family cannot exist without a shared ancestor. Even after the death of the common ancestor, the family remains a Joint Hindu Family. Under section 2 of the HMA, a person can leave a joint family if they convert to another faith or marry a non-Hindu. Even when a child is given in adoption to a third party by competent parents or a daughter is married off, one ceases to be a member of a joint family.

Laws Concerning Hindu Undivided Family

The Hindu Undivided Family is inextricably linked to the Hindu Succession Act and the Hindu Marriage Act.

Hindu Succession Act:

The Hindu Succession Act governs Hindu succession regulations. When a Joint Hindu Family is involved, there is usually an ancestral property that the descendants would inherit. The Hindu Succession Act regulates this.

The Hindu Property Act:

Respects the Hindu Undivided Family idea. This means that this legislation governs the ancestral property inherited by a family of people who are lineally descended from a common ancestor and are linked to one another by birth or marriage.

The Hindu Marriage Act, on the other hand, is a law that governs Hindu marriages. That particular joint family includes the wives of the male descendants. Unless they opt to return to their mother home permanently after being widowed, they remain a part of that joint family. Until they marry off, the daughters are also a part of the joint family. As a result, the Hindu Marriage Act is crucial in the Hindu Undivided Family.

Income Tax Act: HUF is treated as a person u/s 2(31) of the Income Tax Act. Individual members of a Joint Hindu Family can file their separate Returns under the Income Tax Act and filing of these Returns is irrespective of the status of the family.

As stated in Surjit Lal Chhabda v. CIT, it consists of all male family members descended lineally up to any generation from a common ancestor, as well as their mothers, wives, widows, and unmarried daughters. Until she marries, a daughter remains a member of her parents' joint family. She becomes a member of her husband's Joint Hindu family once she marries.

If a daughter's husband abandons her or she becomes a widow and returns to her father's home permanently, she re-joins the Joint Hindu family. Her children, on the other hand, remain in their father's Joint Hindu family and do not join the mother's father's Joint Hindu family. Even an illegitimate offspring of a male descendent shall be a part of his Joint Hindu family, according to the case of Gur Narain Das v. Gur Tahal Das.

It is important to note that a Joint Hindu Family cannot be formed without a shared ancestor. The presence of a common ancestor is required for its formation, but not for its continuation, i.e. the death of the common ancestor does not result in the dissolution of the Joint Hindu Family. The marriage, birth, or adoption of the child in the marriage removes upper family relationships and adds lower family links. This cycle will continue as long as the species does not go extinct. The Sapinda relationship (belonging to the same ancestors, up to three and five lines of descent from the mother's and father's sides, respectively) or family relationship binds the members.

The status of being a part of the Joint Hindu Family can be ceased in the following cases:
  • By conversion to another religion or faith.
  • By marriage to a non-Hindu (a person who is not Hindu as per Section 2 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which include a Muslim, Jew, Parsi or Christian by religion).
  • By being given in adoption to a third party by the competent parents.
  • By marriage of a daughter.

What If?
  • Position when there are only female members (widow)
    On the death of the sole male member, a joint Hindu family can continue to exist at the instance of already existing female members of the family. The term 'continuation' is different from starting or forming a joint family for the first time.

    If A and B are brothers, C and D are wives of A and B respectively. Four of them together constitute a Joint Hindu family.
  • Position when there is only one male member in the family
    In such a case the Joint Hindu family can still continue to function as the requirement of a male member is essential to start a Joint Hindu family and not for its continuance. It is not necessary to have at least two or more male members in the family to make it a Hindu Undivided family as a taxable entry. In the case of CIT v. Gomedalli Lakshminarayan it was held that even if the coparcenary does not exist in a family still that family continues to be a Hindu Undivided family.
  • Position when there are only daughters
    After the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956
    The Act gave power and permission to even a single woman to adopt a child. As per law, the status of an adopted child is the same as that of a child born into the family. Now, the woman could add a male member to her father's Joint Hindu family without getting married. Therefore, an adopted child can be maintained by a single parent also.

    After the 2005 amendment in the Hindu Succession Act, 1956
    The amendment to the Act gave the right to a daughter to be a coparcener and now she can not only continue the Joint Hindu family but also constitute one with her father and brothers.
  • Position when there are only husband and wife
    Because the couple has the option of adding a male member to the family, or in other words, a coparcener, they can form a Joint Hindu Family. There is a split in court opinion on whether a husband and wife can establish a joint family under revenue statutes in order to qualify for the Hindu Undivided Family tax exemption.

In the case of T. Srinivasan v. CIT, a partition took place in a Joint Hindu Family and the son took his share. For a certain while, he filed his returns as an individual until he got married. The question came into consideration when his wife was pregnant. It was held that only when the son is born, he becomes a member of the joint family.

Janakiammal vs. S. K. Kumarasamy & Ors.
Date: 30th June 2021 Court.
Supreme Court of India Bench.
Hon'ble Justices Ashok Bhushan and Subhash Reddy.

Citation: LL 2021 SC 280.
Facts: In the case of R. Janakiammal vs. Kumarasamy, there was a partition dated 7th November 1960 between three brothers. The Appellant claimed that the said partition agree was entered by the three brothers to save the landed property from Land Ceiling Act and there was no intention of separating each branch and changing the joint family status. The Appellant contended that there was a reunion between the three brothers to revert to the status of Hindu Joint Family which can be proved from the acts and conduct of the parties after 7th November 1960.

Judgment in Brief: The issue before the Hon'ble Apex Court was whether a particular house property purchased in 1979 is a joint family property or not. Considering the facts of the case, the Top Court Bench of Hon'ble Justices Ashok Bhushan and Subhash Reddy found that in 1979, when the residential property was obtained in the name of one brother, all 3 branches were a part of the Hindu joint family.

The Court while giving its judgment referred to the concept of reunion in Hindu Law explained in Mulla on Hindu Law, 22nd edition. According to the concept of reunion in Hindu Law, a reunion in estate property can only take place between the persons who were parties to the original partition. Further, the effect of reunion is to remit the reunited members to their former status as a member of a joint family. To constitute a reunion, there must be the intention of the parties to reunite.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court in its judgment held that Hindu Joint Family, even if partitioned can revert and continue the status of joint family. The Supreme Court Bench observed that acts and conduct of the parties may lead to the inference that the parties reunited after partition. The Court held that the house property purchased in the name of one member of the Hindu joint family was for the benefit of all.

The Hon'ble Court also observed that the individual member of a Joint Hindu Family can file his/her separate returns under Income Tax Act as well as Wealth Tax Act. The Court held that the filing of such returns had nothing to do with the status of the family. The Bench held that all three branches had an equal share in the residential property.

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