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Hindu Coparcenary: Coparcener rights and changing role of women

The idea and concept of the Coparcenary are discussed under the Hindu Succession Act of 1956. The meaning of the Coparcenary refers to the possession of the ancestral property of the family. The word "coparcener" in Hindu law refers to male family members who have a birthright to take a stake in ancestral property. They consist of the Karta, who is the head of the family, and the three generations after him, which comprise his sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons. Since the Hindu Succession law was amended in 2005, a family's daughter is also regarded as a coparcener. While in a Hindu family, including the wives and the unmarried daughters, all individuals who are linearly descended from a common ancestor are referred as members. As a result, not all members of a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) are coparceners; rather, coparceners are members of a HUF.

A HUF, or Hindu Undivided Family, is a group of people who are all directly connected by a common ancestor, including their spouses and unmarried daughters. A Hindu Family naturally creates a HUF; it cannot be founded through a contract. "Hindu Undivided Family ('HUF') is treated as a 'person' under section 2(31)​of the Income-tax Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'). HUF is a separate entity for the purpose of assessment under the Act."[1]

Karta is the supreme member or head of the family and he is the person responsible for partition in the family. In the case of "Ram Kumar v Commr. Income Tax",[2] it was held by the court that A Hindu joint family is seen as a unit, and the Karta is in charge of it. Karta is regarded as the controller of the HUFand is hence a very significant individual. Karta's viewpoint is referred to as Sui generis[3]. He thus occupies a special place inside the Hindu family's holdings.

Schools Of Hindu Law

Mitakshara School: The law of inheritance Mitakshara School was applied in accordance with the propinquity principle, which simply means in order of closeness of blood relation. A similar idea was also underpinned in the Hindu Succession Act. Acco. to the law, the males of the family were given exclusive birth rights to have possession of the joint family's property, but the daughters of the family were not given any such rights.

Dayabhaga School: The law of inheritance was based on the notion of religious reward or spiritual gain in this school. According to the theory of oblations, the individual who bestows more spiritual benefit would have the right to inherit the property. In this school, not only the sons of the family-owned the land by birthright but also females may inherit it. The boys do not inherit any rights to inherited property at birth; instead, they become entitled to them upon the demise of the Karta or the last holder of the property.

Evolution Of Coparcenary

The coparcenary system has gone through a lot of changes. One of the key aspects of that is the "Hindu Succession Amendment Act, 2005", herein referred after as the 2005 Amendment. The amendment of 2005 amends the old law and includes females as coparceners in coparcenaries. The Hindu Succession Act's Section 6 marked the beginning of women's rights. It was stated that a coparcener's daughter would be entitled to the coparcenary property by birth, exactly as it is with the son, "on and from the beginning" of the Amendment Act, 2005. The daughter will be subject to the same liabilities as that of boy.

The males won't be involved in managing the daughter's acquired property, and the daughter is free to do anything she wants with her share. When a woman passes away, her children will take over ownership of the property, not the lineage of the husband. "There was a cancellation of succession as per survivorship and there came a succession of testamentary succession and intestate succession."[4] The Hindu Succession Act underwent several changes and grew more gender-neutral, but it did not grant women exclusive rights until an amendment was made. India became a greater welfare state as a result of this amendment, which became a cornerstone in sustaining constitutional values. In the judgment of "Pandurang vs Pandurang",[5] the court observed that Women are also capable of becoming the family's head, or Karta. and if there is any absence of men in the Joint Family, then women might overtake the charge.

The joint family structure was abolished in the state of Kerala with effect from 1976 according to "the Kerala Hindu family abolition Act, 1975". These all demonstrate how far women have come in society. Compared to past times, society currently has a different attitude toward women. Women who own property and other assets are more powerful and should serve as role models. Because of these new amendments, they flourished in society.

Rights Of Coparceners:

  1. Community of Interest:
    Under normal circumstances, a coparcener can't claim an exclusive or personal claim to the ancestral land. The legal right of obtaining coparcenary property unites HUF members.
     
  2. Joint Possession:
    Every member of the coparcenary has a right to enjoy ancestral property equally among members.
     
  3. Doctrine of Survivorship and Unpredictability:
    The doctrine of Survivorship refers to the division of property among the surviving members. The no. of members changes in a family due to birth and death. Thus, the no. of divisions among the property remains uncertain and the share of each member can't be predicted over a period of time.
     
  4. Demand Partition:
    It is the right of the coparcener to get his right in the property. And if there is any delay or some obstruction in the partition process then the coparcener may demand his right to the ancestral property from the Karta.
     
  5. Alienation of Property:
    Karta alone has the authority to alienate joint family property. Additionally, this is only carried out when it is required by law, beneficial to the estate, or necessary to fulfil an unavoidable responsibility. However, after partition, a member can alienate his property in the way he wants.
     
  6. Maintenance:
    "A coparcener is entitled to get the maintenance of the coparcenary property from the estate of the family. The coparcener receives money from the property for the maintenance of his wife, children or in case of a marriage ceremony of the same children."[6]

Conclusion
Hindu Coparcenery forms a very significant part of Succession and is an integral part of a Joint Family. Coparcenery is formed by male members of different generations and they generally share a common ancestral property. The concept of a Joint Family or Hindu Undivided Family is equally integral and helps to understand the basics of the Hindu family. There are different thoughts of Hindu Law schools on the subject of inheritance. The concept of coparcenary was liberalised through the 2005 amendment and provided many rights to the daughters of the joint family. The amendment was perceived as a positive step towards neutrality in the Succession and Inheritance aspect. There are many rights guaranteed for the coparceners under the act. The Succession Act is in the right direction for achieving Gender-neutrality.

End-Notes:
  1. Income Tax Department, Government of India, URL: "https://www.incometaxindia.gov.in/Pages/i-am/huf.aspx
  2. AIR 1953 ALL 150
  3. Sui Generis - Unique
  4. Law Bhoomi, URL: https://lawbhoomi.com/concept-of-coparcenary-under-hindu-law/#_ftn2, (Last Visited 25/08/2022)
  5. AIR 1847 Nag. 178
  6. 99 Acres, URL: https://www.99acres.com/articles/all-about-coparcener.html, (Last Visited 25/08/2022)

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