Power and Liabilities of the Karta

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Contents Introduction…………………………………………………………….…………………...3 People eligible to be Karta………………………………………………………………......3 Minor as Karta..…………………….………………………………….………………...3 Father as Karta…………………….………………………………….………………….4 Female as Karta before and post 2005……………………………………………………....4 Responsibilities of the Karta…………………….…………………………..……………....4 Powers and Liabilities of the Karta…………………….…………………………...…….…5 Power to manage family affairs ..…………………….…………………………..….……5 Powers to receive and use family income…………………….……………………....…...5 Power to manage joint family business……………………………….…………….……..6 Power to Alienate…………………….………………………………….………….……..6 Liabilities of account…………………….………………………………….……….…….7 Power and liability to represent in suits …………………….……………………….……7 Power and liability to acknowledge debts…………………….……………….…….…….8 Powers to contract debts for family purpose…………………….…………………….…...8 Power of Arbitration…………………….………………………………….……………...8 Power and liability to settle family disputes…………………….…………………….…...8 Conclusion …………………….………………………………….……………………….…9 Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………………10
An analysis of Responsibilities, Power and Liabilities of the Karta
  1. Introduction
A joint family is a unique institution under Hindu Law[1]. It is an institute whose members own property by its name, which has many persons as its members, having different rights over the property and also rights and duties towards one another. The Karta is the head and the manager of the joint family and acts on behalf of the family, he holds an important position in the joint family. He has innumerable rights and powers but these powers are not available to the any other coparceners .The paper attempts to discuss about the people who can become a Karta, the change in law post 2005 which included females as Karta and mainly focuses on the responsibilities, power and liabilities of the Karta.
  1. People eligible to be Karta
The senior most male member is generally assumed to be the Karta of a Hindu joint family[2]. He should be fit to act as the Karta and not suffering from any mental or physical disorder[3]. He is the head of the family and has the custodian of the joint family property. The Karta is the manager of the joint family property but he has certain exclusive powers. The position of the Karta is decided by birth and regulated with seniority[4].
  1. Minor as Karta
A minor can act as the Karta and represent the family through guardian[5]. A minor cannot manage the joint family property as long as the Karta is accessible except when the Karta gives up his right explicitly or by vital ramifications or in his absence in extraordinary and unusual circumstances, for example, trouble or disaster influencing the entire family and for supporting the family or where his whereabouts are not known or he is away in a remote place because of unavoidable circumstances and his return inside within a reasonable time could not be expected. In Nopany Investors (Pvt) Ltd v. Santokh Singh[6], the court laid down these guidelines as to when a minor could be a Karta.
  1. Father as Karta
The father is usually considered as the Karta and in the absence of the father which is not permanent is not enough for the son to become the Karta, if there is no proof to show that the father is in a remote nation or his whereabouts are not known or his return within a reasonable time is out of inquiry. So long as the Karta is alive nobody else on his own could become the Karta, and if the Karta wants to do so, he continues to occupy the representative capacity even when he might not be looking into the family affairs due to reasons of age or health[7]. On his wish to not continue as the Karta, he can explicitly give up this position and with the permission of the other family members, an alternate coparcener can be designated as the Karta even when he might be not the senior most member in line. In any case if there is any clash of permission, the senior most members is assumed to be the Karta. If a younger brother joins the elder brother in a family transaction, that would not influence the position of the elder brother as the Karta. In Narendrakumar J. Modi v. Commissioner of Income Tax[8] it was stated that if a younger brother acts as the Karta with the consent of all the other family members during the life time of his elder brother, he is permitted to do so[9].
  1. Females as Karta before and post 2005
To be a Karta, it is required to be a coparcener and since females were not taken as coparcener, she was not permitted to be a Karta nor she was allowed to represent the family. In Income-tax v. Seth Govind Ram[10] it was stated that a female member of a joint family is not entitled to be the Karta and she does not have the power to alienate the joint family property. In Commissioner of Income Tax v. Lakshmi Narang[11] it was held that under certain special circumstances, a female could act as a Karta and her decision would be binding on the family members. After the Amendment Act of 2005, a daughter is a coparcener in the same way as a son. Since she is can be a coparcener, she is qualified for be a Karta.
  1. Responsibilities of the Karta
The prevalent position of the Karta is filled with many responsibilities. His main responsibility is to provide residence and maintenance to the rest of the family members[12] and to look after the satisfaction of the needs of the other family members. This includes the marriage expenses of all unmarried children and the burial expenses of departed members. He also has the responsibility to protect the family in all prosecution that may be filed against the family or by any member of the family or any outsider. As he deals with the property he has the obligation to pay the entire statutory or other dues of the family like taxes, debts, etc[13].
  1. Powers and Liabilities of the Karta
The Karta has certain exclusive powers which are not available to any other family member or coparceners. He has the power of management of all family affairs which are unlimited and he can even decide which member of the family should stay in which portion of the house and also to decide if the family member is eligible to stay in the house or not. He is supposed to receive the family income and decide on which purpose it is supposed to be spent. The Karta also has certain alienation power of the joint family property with the consent of the other coparceners but this power is restricted by certain limitations. He is entitled to maintain all the members of the family. He is liable to disclose the accounts of the family only in case of partition and also to settle family debts and disputes. All these powers and liabilities of the Karta are discussed below.
  1. Power to manage family affairs
The Karta is the head of the family and has the ability to deal with the family issues and the family property, though his powers to alienate the joint family property is limited, his power to manage the family are absolute[14]. He has the ability to take ownership of the aggregate property and get the joint family income from whichever source it may come. No individual coparcener has the power of exclusive ownership of a particular joint family property or family income without the consent of the Karta. If a coparcener forcefully occupies a particular segment of the joint family property without the permission of the Karta, the Karta has the power to evict him from that property. The Karta also has the power to discard a coparcener of the house, if his bad habits or bad behaviour creates nuisance in the house. The coparcener does not have the power to challenge the Karta’s decision, all he could do is seek partition and move out of the family. The Karta has the power to decide about the residence of the family members, this decision cannot be challenged on the basis of equity or partiality and he can discriminate members according to his choice.
  1. Power to receive and use family income
The Karta has the right to get the joint family income for the administration of joint family issues. He also has the power to decide on how this income will be spent. The Karta can use the income for the maintenance and education of the family members or lawful need that would bring profit for the family. He can use the money for providing accommodation to the family members. In C.I.T. v. P.L Karuppan Chettair[15] it was stated that if the Karta inherits a property in his individual capacity, it is treated as his separate property and the incomes arising out of it is not treated as an income of the joint family. In this case, the father separated from his wife and son. The son, his wife and children formed a separate joint family. In due course of time, the father died and the son inherited his property. This property which the son inherited was treated as a property he inherited in his individual property and it was not a part of the joint family property[16].
  1. Power to manage joint family business
The Karta is entrusted with the management of the joint family business. He has the liberty to take any decision which will result in the promotion of the joint family business. But he is not permitted to do any act with the joint family business which is for his own personal benefit. In P.S. Sairam v. P. S. Rama Rao[17] the Karta of the joint family used the joint family property for the premises his separate business. It was stated that it was a joint family property and the Karta by no means had the power to use it for his own separate business[18].
  1. Power to Alienate
The Karta`s power of alienating the joint family property are restricted and it can only be practiced with the consent of rest of the coparceners. Where the coparcener does not give consent or is unequipped for giving consent being a minor the Karta can alienate the property just for legal necessity[19] or for execution of religious or beneficent purposes or family necessity[20] or when the transaction brings about profit for all members of the family. In such cases, the alienation would be binding on the entire family[21] including minors. In case there is an unauthorized alienation, the coparceners have the power to question the alienation and seek for a decree to cancel it. In Manohar v. Dewan[22] it was stated that an alienation without the consent of all the coparceners which is illegal is void. In Balmukand v. Kamla Wati[23] it has been stated that if all the other adult members refuse to a certain transaction, then no part of the joint family property can be disposed off by the Karta on the ground for the benefit of the family. In Karam Singh v. Nazir Singh[24] ancestral property was in dispute, the Karta and his son formed coparcenary and this alienation was challenged. In Dev Kishan v. Ram Kishan[25] the Karta mortgaged the joint family property for the marriage of his minor children[26]. This debt of the Karta was not considered to be a debt of legal necessity. In Sunil Kumar v. Ram Prakash[27] case, questions were raised that if a coparcener has the power to get a permanent injunction against the Karta to stop him from alienation of the joint family property. It was decided that a coparcener does not have any such right and the only possible remedy available to him is to challenge the alienation. In V. K. Surendra v. V. K. Thimmaiah[28] it was decided that the Karta does not have the power to change the character of the joint family property by transferring it under Will or gift to anyone without the consent of the other coparceners.
  1. Liabilities of account
The Karta is not bound to keep account on his usage of family funds because it is assumed that he will be acting for the best interest of the family. However where a coparcener seeks partition, he can approach the Karta to provide him the accounts. The Karta has to provide him the accounts in such a situation but the Karta will only be accountable of the date when the coparcener demands partition and not past accounts unless there lays any allegation of fraud, misrepresentation or conversion by the Karta of the joint family property to his own personal property[29]. He is only liable for the existing properties to be divided among the coparceners[30]. In such cases the Karta is bound to show the accounts when partition of the joint family properties is to be effected among all the other members[31].
  1. Power and liability to represent in suits
The Karta is assumed to act on behalf of the entire joint family and he has the power to represent the joint family if there is a suit by or against the joint family and when a decree is passed it binds all the members of the joint family even the minors[32]. A suit has to be filled by the family in the name of the Karta or if it is against the family has to be defended by him. In Singriah v. Ramanuj[33] it has been stated that the Karta represents the entire joint family in case of litigations.
  1. Power and liability to acknowledge debts
The Karta has the power to acknowledge and settle family debts because of the family and also to pay the interests on it. The obligation to pay the debt may have been made by all other members of the family or by the Karta alone on behalf of the family[34]. Also where a loan is made by the Karta by executing a promissory note in his name for a legal reason, such a note ties the other coparceners but only to the limit of their shares unless it could be proved that they were a part of the contract. In Dassappa v. Vedarathamma[35] it was stated that the Karta does not have the power to acknowledge a debt which is time barred. He also has the power to discharge a debt which is due to the joint family. In Rangaswamy v. A. P. Transco[36] it has been stated that the Karta is solely responsible for the debts he has incurred after partition.
  1. Powers to contract debts for family purpose
The Karta has powers to make debts for utilizing it in the family business[37] or for another legal reason and such a debt ties the share of all other coparceners. A coparcener by means of partition cannot get away from the obligation to settle the debt made by the Karta, from his portion of the property. Such debt contracts bind all the adult coparceners and even the minors.
  1. Power of Arbitration
The Karta has the power to refer to arbitration in matters involving the interest of the joint family. Where such reference to arbitration or compromise is for the benefit of the family all family members including the minors are bound by it.
  1. Power and liability to settle family disputes
If there raised an issue between the family members or family members and outsiders, the Karta can enter into a bargain on behalf of the family but not when he would incur some personal benefit. The Karta has the absolute power to settle family disputes in order to bring about peace in the family. He also has the power to discard a family member out of the family if he is found to be behind the disputes in the family.
  1. Conclusion
The Karta of a Hindu joint family has a position which is superior that the rest of the members. He acts as a manager of the joint family property, takes care of the maintenance of the members of the family, his acts are to be treated as on behalf of the whole family. The Karta of the joint family represents the whole family when a suit is filled by or against the entire family. He is the main working unit of the family and his decisions are mostly binding on the rest of the members of the family. He has various powers as well as responsibilities and liabilities. His power of alienation is only limited by certain restrictions. The Karta is the most important person of a joint family on whom other members are dependent on for various needs like food, shelter, etc. A joint family is a complex entity and the Karta is solely responsible for the proper functioning of the joint family. The numerous powers of the Karta are guided by numerous restrictions to prevent him for wrongful use of his power, with power, responsibilities are also imposed on the Karta. This ensures that the Karta works for the best of the entire joint family. There are plenty of remedies available to the other members to ensure the proper functioning of the Karta. Bibliography Books:
  • Poonam Pradhan Saxena, Family Law Lectures : Family Law II (3rd edn, Lexis Nexis, 2011).
  • Ajai Gaur Gaur, Commentaries on the hindu law (Dwivedi & Co, 2007).
  • S K Mitra, Mitra on hindu law: as amended by the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 (3 rd edn, Orient Publishing, 2010).
  • A G Gupte, The Hindu Succession Act, 1956: as amended by The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 (Premier Publishing Co, 2006).
  • Ranganath, Mayne’s treatise on hindu law and usage (15th edn. Bharat Law House, 2006).
Cases Cited:
  • Suraj Bansi Koer v. Sheo Prasad (1880) 5 Cal 148.
  • Narendrakumar J. Modi v. Commissioner of Income Tax AIR (1976) SC 1953.
  • Nopany Investors (Pvt) Ltd v. Santokh Singh AIR (2008) SC 673.Income-tax v. Seth Govind Ram (1966) SC 2.
  • Commissioner of Income Tax v. Lakshmi Narang (1948) ILR Nag 775.
  • C.I.T. v P.L Karuppan Chettair (1993) Supp (1) SCC 580: (1992) 197 ITR 646.
  • P.S. Sairam v. P. S. Rama Rao AIR (2004) SC 1619: (2004)II SCC 320.
  • Guramma Bhratar Chanbasappa Deshmukh v. Malappa AIR (1964) SC 510.
  • Kandasami v. Somakanda (1912) 35 Mad 117.
  • Manohar v Dewan (1985) P. & H. 313.
  • Balmukand v. Kamla Wati AIR (1964) SC 1385.
  • Karam Singh v. Nazir Singh AIR (2003) P& H 172.
  • Dev Kishan v. Ram Kishan AIR (2002) Raj 370.
  • Sunil Kumar v. Ram Prakash (1988) SC 576.
  • V. K. Surendra v. V. K. Thimmaiah (2013) 10 SC 211.
  • Damodar Misra v. Banamali Misra AIR (1967) Ori 61.
  • S. Krishnan v. K. Narayana Iyer AIR (1986) Ker 267.
  • Singriah v. Ramanuj AIR 1959 Mys 239 (DB).
  • Rangaswamy v. A. P. Transco (2002) 4 ALT 108.
  • Ram v. Ratan (1931) P.C. 136.
  • Dassappa v. Vedarathamma (1972) Mys 288.
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[1] Poonam Pradhan Saxena, Family Law Lectures: Family Law II (3rd edn, Lexis Nexis, 2011)143. [2] Ibid. [3] Suraj Bansi Koer v. Sheo Prasad (1880) 5 Cal 148. [4] Ranganath, Mayne’s treatise on hindu law and usage (15th edn. Bharat Law House, 2006)759. [5] Poonam Pradhan Saxena, Family Law Lectures: Family Law II (3rd edn, Lexis Nexis, 2011)144. [6] AIR (2008) SC 673 [7] Poonam Pradhan Saxena, Family Law Lectures: Family Law II (3rd edn, Lexis Nexis, 2011)144. [8] AIR (1976) SC 1953. [9] A G Gupte, The Hindu Succession Act, 1956: as amended by The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 (Premier Publishing Co, 2006)1405. [10] (1966) SC 2. [11] (1948) ILR Nag 775 [12] Poonam Pradhan Saxena, Family Law Lectures: Family Law II (3rd edn, Lexis Nexis, 2011)147. [13] Poonam Pradhan Saxena, Family Law Lectures: Family Law II (3rd edn, Lexis Nexis, 2011)148. [14] Ibid. [15] (1993) Supp (1) SCC 580: (1992) 197 ITR 646. [16] S K Mitra, Mitra on hindu law: as amended by the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 (3 rd edn, Orient Publishing, 2010)78. [17] AIR (2004) SC 1619: (2004)II SCC 320. [18] Ajai Gaur Gaur, Commentaries on the hindu law (Dwivedi & Co, 2007)922. [19] Legal necessity does not mean actual compulsion, it refers to the pressure on the estate which in law can be regarded as serious and sufficient. [20] Guramma Bhratar Chanbasappa Deshmukh v. Malappa AIR (1964) SC 510. [21] Kandasami v. Somakanda (1912) 35 Mad 117. [22] (1985) P. & H. 313. [23] AIR (1964) SC 1385. [24] AIR (2003) P& H 172. [25] AIR (2002) Raj 370. [26] S K Mitra, Mitra on hindu law: as amended by the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 (3 rd edn, Orient Publishing, 2010)88. [27] (1988) SC 576. [28] (2013) 10 SC 211. [29] A G Gupte, The Hindu Succession Act, 1956: as amended by The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 (Premier Publishing Co, 2006)1409. [30] Damodar Misra v. Banamali Misra AIR (1967) Ori 61. [31] S. Krishnan v. K. Narayana Iyer AIR (1986) Ker 267. [32] A G Gupte, The Hindu Succession Act, 1956: as amended by The Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 (Premier Publishing Co, 2006)1411. [33] AIR 1959 Mys 239 (DB). [34] Poonam Pradhan Saxena, Family Law Lectures: Family Law II (3rd edn, Lexis Nexis, 2011)151. [35] (1972) Mys 288. [36] (2002) 4 ALT 108. [37] Ram v. Ratan (1931) P.C. 136.
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