Woman Can Be 'Karta' Of Hindu Undivided Family; Hindu Law Doesn't Limit Women's Right To Be HUF Karta : Delhi High Court
The Delhi High Court has ruled that neither the legislature nor the traditional Hindu Law, in any way, limits the right of a woman to be a Karta of an Hindu Undivided Family (HUF).A division bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Neena Bansal Krishna observed that “societal perceptions” cannot be a reason to deny the rights expressly conferred by the Legislature. “To say that...
The Delhi High Court has ruled that neither the legislature nor the traditional Hindu Law, in any way, limits the right of a woman to be a Karta of an Hindu Undivided Family (HUF).
A division bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Neena Bansal Krishna observed that “societal perceptions” cannot be a reason to deny the rights expressly conferred by the Legislature.
“To say that a woman can be a coparcener but not a Karta, would be giving an interpretation which would not only be anomalous but also against the stated Object of introduction of Amendment [in the Hindu Succession Act, in 2005],” the court said.
Beginning the judgment by quoting Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Former Associate Justice of Supreme Court of the United States, the bench said that there has been an disinclination in accepting a woman as a Karta, despite having been conferred equal rights equal coparcenary rights as men.
“Men and women historically were born equal. However, over a period of time, with the advancement of civilization and hierarchical division of society, women have been pigeonholed according to gender roles which progressed into an act of prelation that has relegated them to a secondary position in society,” the court said.
It added: “Similarly, the Amendment of 2005 to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 which has conferred coparcenary rights to the women, equivalent to that of men, is a quintessence of another reform in law relating to women empowerment. However, the unwavering certitude in marginalisation of women, so deeply entrenched in Society, is perceived to be imperilled by the prospect of a woman taking the position of Karta in an HUF, a role that was traditionally assumed by men.”
The bench ruled that the explicit language of Section 6 of the 2005 Amendment Act makes it abundantly clear that though the reference in the Preamble may be to inheritance, but conferring “same” rights would include all other rights that a coparcener has, which includes a woman's right to be a Karta.
The court said that to say that a woman can be a coparcener but not a Karta of HUF, would be giving an interpretation which would not only be anomalous but also against the stated Object of introduction of the Amendment.
It added that while a HUF cannot have two Kartas, but the duty of management can be performed by another Coparcener in given circumstances.
Furthermore, the court observed that the rights of the members in a coparcenary remain unaffected even when a female coparcener acts as its Karta. It added that the Coparceners continue to enjoy the same entitlements and interests which they otherwise have and that their rights as coparcener do not get impinged in any manner.
“If there arises any scepticism about the skills, efficiency, sincerity or ability of female Coparceners to act as the Karta or being influenced by her in-laws, the other Coparceners have adequate remedies to seek for a partition or impeach any wrongful alienation of property made by the Karta,” the court said.
It also rejected a contention that the husband of a female Karta would have an indirect control over the activities of the HUF of her father‟s family.
Calling it a “parochial mindset”, the court said that even the legislature had diligently attempted to oust such a mindset through Section 14 of the Act of 1956 to accord women with the “long overdue right to be the absolute owner of her property.”
“If a woman is proscribed from becoming a Karta in view of this reasoning as cited by the appellant, it will only render the legislative endeavour to give rights in immovable properties to women through Section 14 of the Act,1956 as a mere mirage. Ergo, a woman who has absolute ownership in a property cannot be denied a right to manage it on the warped reasoning that she may get influenced by her in-laws. Thus, societal apprehension and reluctance can never truncate legislative enactments to do away with patriarchal discrimination,” the court said.
The bench made the observations while dismissing a plea moved against a single judge order which held that there is no restriction in law preventing the eldest female co-parcener of an HUF from being its Karta.
The court also declared one Sujata Sharma as the Karta of an HUF “D.R. Gupta & Sons HUF”.
Counsel for Appellant: Mr. Aslam Ahmed, Ms. Charu Shriyam Singh & Mr. Abhishek Dwivedi, Advocates. Ms. Aakanksha Kaul, Amicus Curiae with Mr. Manek Singh, Mr. Aman Sahani & Mr. Harsh Ojha, Advocates
Counsel for Respondents: Ms.Mala Goel, Advocate for R-1. Ms. Anita Trehan, Dr. Sarita Dhuper, Ms. Kajal Chandra, Ms. Prerna Chopra, Mr. Divye Puri & Ms. Sakshi Anand, Advocates. Mr. Brajesh Kr. Srivastava, Mr. Deo Prakash Sharma, Mr. Manoj Yadav & Mr. Umesh Kr. Gupta, Advocates for R-9 & 10
Title: MANU GUPTA v. SUJATA SHARMA & ORS.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Del) 1247