Who can be a Karta of Joint Hindu family and discuss his powers also and explain whether can a female be a Karta of Joint Hindu family.

Joint Hindu family is based upon the concept of Unity of Ownership and Unity of possession. In Joint Hindu family, every member has an interest in the joint family property and they acquire the interest from their birth. So, basically they all are co- owners of the property and it is very difficult for all of them to represent themselves with respect to the same property and also very difficult to manage the affairs of that property. That is why, to run the affairs of Joint family property smoothly, the position of Karta was introduced in Joint Hindu family.

Karta is a person who manages the affairs of joint Hindu family and has unlimited powers. He represents the joint family on behalf of all the members and runs the joint family business on behalf of all the members.
Now the question arises, “Who can be a Karta?

The eldest male coparcener can be a karta and his a position is a sui- generis that means he is Karta per- se because of fact that he is eldest male member of a family. His capabilities to manage family business, his age, his illness etc. will not be a hindrance of his becoming a Karta. But if he is of unsound mind then Kartaship will automatically goes to next senior most member of a family. If, he is too ill or aged to manage joint family business than he can delegate his managing powers and for such delegation consent of other coparceners is not necessary.

In the leading case of Narendra Kumar J. Modi vs C.I.T[(1976) 105 ITR 109 SC],The Supreme Court held that, “ the general rule is that Kartaship cannot be delegated but managing powers can be delegated. However, if anyone wants to delegate Kartaship to a junior member of family then he can delegate it with the consent of all the coparceners and in the presence of all the coparceners.”

In the leading case of Union of India vs Shri Ram Vohra (AIR 1965 SC 1531), The Supreme Court held that, “ the position of Karta is special position and it is created automatically by operation of law. In one joint family there can be only one Karta at one point of time. Though there can be more than one manager in a joint family.”

The position of Karta is a special position. He is not only manager of joint property and business but he also looks like and agent and trustee of a family. But his powers are not limited as to agent or trustee. He has greater powers and because of these powers:-
• he can discriminate between members in the matters of maintenance.
• he can absolutely manage the family affairs and property and no one can question his management.
• All family income will be handed over to Karta and he will take decision regarding allotment of that money.
• he can represent the joint family in all the matters whether they are legal, social, religious or financial. He acts on the behalf of all the members of joint Hindu family and all his acts bind all the members.
• he can compromise any of the dispute relating to joint family property. But he can do so only for the benefit of joint Hindu family and not for his personal benefit.
• He can transfer the dispute relating to Joint Hindu family to “Arbitration”.
• He can spend the joint family funds and will not be accountable to anyone. No one can take account of his past conduct but he is liable to give account regarding Joint family property only in cases of fraud, misappropriation or partition.

Karta has also a power to alienate a joint family property but he can do so only with the consent of all the coparceners. He cannot alienate the property without the consent of coparceners. This is a general rule but in case of legal necessity or for performing socio religious duty or for the benefit of estate Karta can alienate the property even without the consent of all the coparceners.

In the leading case of Sushil Kumar and others vs Ram Prakash and others[(1988) 2 SCC 77], The Supreme Court held that, “ in case of transfer of Property for legal necessity and for benefit of state, it is duty of purchaser to reasonably enquire whether the transfer is because of legal necessity or for benefit of a state. The burden of proof will lie upon purchaser to prove necessity or benefit. Such enquiry should be reasonable and he is expected only to find out circumstances which may raise a reasonable belief of legal necessity or benefit.”

Now, the next question which arises here is, “whether can a female be a Karta?”
In the leading case of Mrs. Sujata Sharma vs Shri Manu Gupta and others[(2016) 226 DLT 647 ], The Hon’ble Delhi High Court held that, “ the eldest women coparcener of a joint Hindu family can be a karta.”

But in the leading case of Shreya Vidyarthi vs Ashok Vidyarthi (AIR 2016 SC 139), The Supreme Court held that, “the women could not be treated as Karta of a Hindu Undivided family, though she can be a manager of a joint family, in some particular circumstances.”

Hence, it can be said that the law regarding this question is not clear and at present there is no provision in any law which gives right to women to be a karta even after amendment of 2005 in Hindu Succession Act, which makes them Coparcener. But, to bring equality and to give respect to norms of Constitution of India, the legislature should allow them to be a Karta.

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