Karta as a head of Hindu Family
Authored by Triyasa Gope
Keywords: - Karta, Hindu Law, Joint Hindu Family.
Karta under Hindu Law is a very unique feature. Karta works as the head of the family. He does work for the benefit of family members. But he is not working as an agent or trustee. He has unlimited power and no one can question. He works on behalf of all the family members. In this article, the first section describes who is Karta. The second section is about the powers of Karta. The third section is about the responsibilities of Karta and at last the conclusion of the article.
Introduction: - Karta is a very ancient concept. It goes from generation to generation from the beginning of Hindu law. Karta is the head of a joint Hindu family and it is also a patriarchal body of society. The senior-most member of the family becomes the Karta and representative of the whole family. Also, he acts on behalf of the whole family. He mainly works as a manager of a joint family and also has family properties. He is different from the other members of the family.
We can say that " Karta is always a member of a family, but all the family members are not Karta". Every family should have the head of the family who can look after the welfare of children and females and their problems. Karta also manages and develops the family business, if any. The decision was taken by Karta is bound to every member of the family. They cannot oppose what he had decided. It is a very unique feature of Hindu law. The powers and responsibilities are broader than anyone else in the family. The word 'Karta' was defined in the case of Suraj Bunsi Koer vs. Sheo Prasad. No strange person becomes the Karta but if he is an adopted son and also an elder one, then he can be a Karta of joint family.
Who can be Karta? : - Karta is the head of the family who represents the whole family everywhere. He must not suffer from any mental or physical disease. But minor health problems like old age, weakness, handicapped is not an issue to abolish him from his position. He can voluntarily resign from his position unless he continues to be a Karta of the family till his death. Now, who can be a Karta of a joint Hindu family? –
v Senior Most Member: - Most of the cases the senior-most member of the family becomes Karta and it is his right. It is assumed that the senior-most person experienced life more than the juniors. So, that's why for the well-being of the family, he becomes Karta. As mentioned before, Karta is always a family member. No outsider becomes Karta of the family. He continues as a Karta till his death and after the death of him, the second senior-most member will become Karta of the family. If Karta wants to resign from his position he can. The position is taken by Karta by mutual agreement or by consent of all coparceners.
v Junior Male Member: - A junior member of the family can become a Karta if all the coparceners were authorized to do so. All the coparceners agree to this and he becomes Karta of the family. In the case of Narendra Kumar J Modi vs CIT court held that a junior family member becomes Karta if all the coparceners accept him as Karta.
v Female Member: - This is an unanswered question of Hindu law, whether a woman becomes a Karta or not. There is much judgment which is contrary to each other. But in most of the cases, it is held that women cannot be a Karta of a joint Hindu family. In the case of Sushila Devi Rampura vs Income-tax officer, it is held by the court that if a Karta died and the next one is minor and his mother is the natural guardian of him then a female can be a Karta.
Powers of Karta: - The powers of Karta are-
v Power to Represent Joint Hindu Family: - A Karta is the head of the family that's why he represents the whole family in legal, social, and religious matters. He works as a spokesperson for the family. The decision taken by Karta is bound to all the members. He can do everything good for the family on behalf of the family.
v Powers of Management: - Karta has the power to manage all the things of joint family as he is the head of the family. No one can question him For any work until he has done any illegal work. He does all the work for the benefit of the family. Also, he cannot deny any maintenance of any member. He is not liable for any failure. If he does this with the malafide intention, then only he can be challenged.
v Right to Compromise: - Karta can enter into any compromise issues regarding joint family. The compromise may be made regarding family properties and debts. But that transaction should free from the malefide intention. Other members of the joint family can sue him only on the ground of mala fide intention of Karta. He can even compromise on the pending suit in court.
v Power to Income And Expenditure: - The income of the whole family must be given to the Karta by all the family members. Then Karta must divide that money to other members for their needs. Karta is the controller of the expenditure of the whole family. He can spend that money only for family purposes like marriage, maintenance, education, savings for the future of the family, etc.
v Power to Enter into a Contract: - As Karta is the spokesperson and an image of the whole family, Karta can enter into any contract which is enforceable against the family. All the members are binding by that contract and they have to follow that.
v Power to Alienation: - Karta can alienate the property of a joint family. But it must be done in some conditions-
1. Consent of all the coparceners.
2. The benefit of reasons.
3. Legal necessity.
If the property is alienated for the sake of an estate then the permission of other coparceners is not required. Karta can even mortgage any property of a joint family for the sake of family members. But he has to prove that he is doing everything with the bona fide intention.
Liabilities of Karta: - Karta must provide all the necessary needs of all the family members. There are various responsibilities in Karta. –
v Maintenance:- Karta has a responsibility to maintain all the members of the joint family. Every family member, including Karta, has a right to maintain. Karta must give maintenance to members and he is unable to give maintenance then he can be sued by any member of the family to get maintenance.
v Marriage: - It is the responsibility of Karta to solemn marriages of the unmarried members of the joint family especially daughters. The expenses of their marriage are bared from the joint family property and savings of a joint family.
v Accounts at Time of Partition:- A partition of property means the title of the joint family comes to an end. Under Mitakshara school of Hindu law, if a coparcener wants to divide property, then he can do it and can enjoy the property as he wants. Karta under Mitakshara Law is required to disclose the accounts only if there are any charges of fraud, misappropriation, or conversion of assets or property of the joint family against him. After the severance of status, the Karta must give the accounts of the expenditure and income like which a Trustee or agent has to render accounts. This implies that Karta has to report all the profits.[i]
v Representation: - The representation of the family by Karta is discussed above. But there are other responsibilities for Karta as a representative of the family. He represents the whole family in government matters. He is also liable to pay all the taxes and debts of family and he can sue and can be sued by others on behalf of any other family members.
Conclusion:- Karta of the joint family was chosen by all the coparceners of the family. He has the power to represent the family anywhere. He not only has the power to management but he has to manage all the accounts, debts, give maintenance. He can also enter in a contract and take loans. But the powers are not used to the bad motive. Because all the members trusted him and select him as a Karta.
If Karta works against the interest of family members then the court will give them a remedy according to the circumstances. Remedies are given for the benefit of family members.
 Suraj Bunsi Koer vs. Sheo Prasad (1879) 6 I.A. 88
 Narendra Kumar J Modi vs CIT 1976 S.C 1953
[i] Arijit Mishra, The Power, and Position of a Karta Under Hindu Law (ipleaders) < https://blog.ipleaders.in/power-and-position-of-a-karta-under-hindu-law/ > accessed 15 September 2020