In a landmark ruling, the Delhi High Court recently held that the eldest woman of a Hindu Undivided Family can be its ‘Karta’, a term which denotes the managership of an HUF.
The issue to be decided by the Court was whether the plaintiff, Mrs. Sujata Sharma, who was the first born amongst the co-parceners of a Hindu Undivided Family property, would by virtue of her birth, be entitled to be its Karta. The parties to the suit before the Court were co-parceners of D.R. Gupta & Sons, HUF.
The Court gave due consideration to the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005, pursuant to which all rights which were available to a Hindu male are now also available to a Hindu female. A daughter is now recognized as a co-parcener by birth in her own right and has the same rights in the co-parcenary property that are given to a son.
Allowing the petition filed by Mrs. Sharma, Justice Waziri observed, “Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act is a socially beneficial legislation; it gives equal rights of inheritance to Hindu males and females. Its objective is to recognize the rights of female Hindus as co-parceners and to enhance their right to equality apropos succession. Therefore, Courts would be extremely vigilant apropos any endeavor to curtail or fetter the statutory guarantee of enhancement of their rights. Now that this disqualification has been removed by the 2005 Amendment, there is no reason why Hindu women should be denied the position of a Karta. 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.”
Mrs. Sharma relied on the judgment in the case of Raghunath Rai Bareja and Another vs. Punjab National Bank and Others, (2207) 2 SCC 230, wherein it was noted that, under the Dayabhaga School of Law, an unborn son cannot have a right in the property because the said son cannot perform Shradha whereas, under the Mitakshara School of Law, an unborn son in the womb of his mother gets a share in the ancestral property.
Further, it was noted that the rights of an unborn son in the mother’s womb under the Dayabhaga School of Law are premised on the ability of the child to offer a rice ball or to conduct such necessary rituals for the benefit of the departed souls of his ancestors. Under the Mitakshara School of Law, emphasis is on the right of inheritance of the child and therefore, it rests upon consanguinity rather than upon the inheritance efficacy.
It was then contended that Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act extends this element of consanguinity to female coparceners of a HUF under the Mitakshara School of Law to all aspects of inheritance, which would include the right to manage a ritual or property as its Karta, being the eldest of the coparceners.
Mrs. Sharma had also placed reliance upon the 174th Report of the Law Commission of India, which had argued that when women are equal in all respects of modern day life, there is no reason why they should be deprived of the right and privilege of managing HUF as their Karta.
Agreeing with the contentions placed on record by Mrs. Sharma, the Court observed, “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. Therefore, the submissions on behalf of defendant Nos. 1 to 4 which are to the contrary are untenable.”
Read the Judgment here.