HC says Hindu family’s eldest woman can be ‘karta’

New Delhi, Feb 10,2016, DHNS:

High court: While females would have equal rights of inheritance in an HUF property, this right could nonetheless be curtailed when it comes to the management of the same

The Delhi High Court has declared that eldest woman of a Hindu undivided family (HUF) can be its ‘karta’, in a landmark verdict, setting a new milestone for women’s rights.

Explaining the meaning of Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act that gives women equal rights of inheritance in an HUF property, Justice Najmi Waziri said the rights cannot be curtailed when it comes to the management of the property. “It is rather an odd proposition that while females would have equal rights of inheritance in an HUF property, this right could nonetheless be curtailed when it comes to the management of the same. The clear language of Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act does not stipulate any such restriction,” the high court said.

The high court passed its order on a suit filed by the eldest daughter of a north Delhi business family. She sought entitlement as the ‘karta’ after death of her father and three uncles.

‘Karta’ stands for head or manager of joint Hindu family and its properties. The person has superior powers over other family members over management of the properties and other family affairs. The title is usually given to the seniormost man of an HUF.

Justice Waziri noted that earlier woman member of HUF was prevented from becoming its ‘karta’ as she did not possess the necessary qualification of co-parcenership

However, with the amendment in the Hindu Succession Act in 2005, equal rights of inheritance were given to Hindu men and women. The original 1956 Hindu Succession Act has not mandated equal rights for daughters in ancestral property.

In the instant case, the family members had opposed plea of the women, asserting the rights only with respect to the inheritance of property and not its management.

The high court, however, rejected their argument, holding, “If a male member of an HUF, by virtue of his being the first born eldest, can be a ‘karta’, so can a female member. The court finds no restriction in the law preventing the eldest female co-parcener of an HUF, from being its ‘karta’.”

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