The court is the head of the Joint Hindu Family. Karta of Joint Hindu Family also known as ‘the manager’. He occupies a unique position in the management of Joint Hindu Family.
The father or the senior-most male member can act as “Karta”. Even a junior most member can be Karta if the other male member (Coparcener) agrees to it. A minor male (Coparcener) may also act as a Karta through his legal guardian until he becomes major.
Right/Powers of Karta of Joint Hindu Family
‘Alienation’ means “transfer of property from one person to another by way of mortgage, gift, sale, lease, etc. Karta can alienate the joint family property with the consent of the other even without the consent of the coparcener. Even without the consent of the other coparcener, he can alienate under the following cases-
For the purpose of legal Necessity
The Karta can alienate the joint family property for the purpose of legal necessity. This view was laid down in Hanuman Prasad’s Case
It was laid down that the alimentation of joint family property by Karta is justified if it is made for the purpose of legal necessity. Which include maintenance of members of joint family, payment of government revenue, marriage expenses of the coparcener and their children, payment of family debts etc.
The following have been held to be legal necessity.
(1) Payment of government revenue and debts payable out of family property.
(2) Maintenance of the coparcener and their family members.
(3) Marriage expenses of coparcener and daughter of the coparcener .
(4) Performance of Shraddha, funeral and other religious ceremonies of the members of the joint family.
(5) Expenses of necessary litigation.
(6) Cost of defending the head of the family or any other member of the joint family against a senior criminal charge.
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For a benefit to the Estate
An alienation of joint family property can be affected for the benefit of the estate also. The Privy Council has elaborately illustrated as to what are the incidents of benefit to estate in Palaniappa vs. Devsikmony. It is laid down that ‘the preservation’ however of the estate from extinction, the defence against the hostile litigation affecting it, the protection of it or its portion from injury or determination by inundation, these and such like things would obviously be the benefits.
The manager of the Joint Hindu Family has an employee implied authority to do whatever is best for all concerned, the test being whether the transaction was on which a prudent owner would have carried out with the knowledge available to him at the time and search transactions are justifiable on the principle of benefit to the estate and are not limited to transactions which are a defensive nature.
The following has been held to constitute the benefit of estate justifying alienation of Joint Hindu Family property.
(1) An advantageous acquisition of some property made in the interest of the family.
(2) Sale of a small share in inferior land in three different villages to acquire a compact share in a fertile land in one village.
(3) Sale of joint family property which is inconveniently situated and is unproductive for the purpose of investing the purchase money in another property which sounds like an investment.
(4) Sale of land situated in an unhealthy place for the purpose of buying land in an advantageous location.
(5) A mortgage for the purpose of a residential house which was also used for carrying on a business.
For the performance of Indispensable Religious Duties
Karta can alienate the joint family property to discharge the religious duties like ‘Shraddha’ offering of Pindas and Udakas to the manes of ancestors.
Further, Karta may make a gift of the joint family property to a reasonable extent.
Powers over income and expenditure
The Karta has control over income expenditure and is the custodian of surplus if any. He is not bound to economies or saves like a trustee or agent, so long as he spends the income for the purpose of the family, that is, for maintenance, education, marriage, Shraddha and other religious ceremonies of the coparceners and of the members of their respective families.
Power to manage joint family business
The Karta has the power to manage the joint family business. In this respect, he can take all such steps which are just and necessary for the promotion of the business.
Power to contract
The Karta has the power of making contracts, giving receipts and compromising or discharging contracts ordinarily incident to the business of the family.
Power to refer to arbitration
The Karta may refer to arbitration any matter involving the interest of a joint Hindu family and the other members of the family, including minors, are bound by the reference and consequently, by the award made upon it.
Power of compromise
The Karta has, however, no power to give up debts due to the joint family and to give up a valuable item without any return or consideration, though he has a right to settle accounts with the debtors and to make a reasonable reduction either towards interest or towards principle in the interest of the family.
Power to acknowledge debts
The Karta has the power to acknowledge a debt or make a part payment of it, so as to extend the period of limitation. But he cannot execute a fresh promissory note or a bond so as to review a time-barred debt.
Duties and liabilities of Karta
Karta, being the administrator of the joint family, has a number of liabilities and duties.
(1) He is responsible to maintain all members of the joint family. If he fails to do so, any member can sue him for the maintenance and can also recover the areas of the maintenance.
(2) He is responsible to perform the marriages of all unmarried members, particularly the female members (daughters).
(3) He has to prepare the account. If a suit is filed by a coparcener for partition.
(4) He is bound to pay taxes and all other dues on behalf of other joint family members.
(5) Finally, he may be used for failure to discharge the above duties and obligations.
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