‘Karta’ in general is a common word in Hindu joint families where it refers to the manager or the head of the family. “Usually, the senior-most male in the family is entitled to the Karta or the manager of the family and hence is offered a unique position called Sui Generis.” Karta on the contrary of other family members has innumerable powers to exercise and liabilities to take care of.
Powers of Karta
1. The power of management
With the advent of vivid powers and rights to exercise comes a great responsibility to bear. Since “Karta is the supreme head of the family”, he has the absolute privilege to govern his family affairs. The Sui Generis nature of his management powers makes them unquestionable as he can manage the family business and other affairs according to his preference. “In Bhaskaran v. Bhaskaran the court held that despite limited powers of alienation, Karta’s family management powers are absolute.” Any source of intervening in Karta’s management is not accepted even if he is biased toward a member.
2. Authority of representation
Karta has the sole and solitary authority to represent his family in all social, legal and religious matters. If the family of Karta files a litigation in the court then the suit is filed in the name of Karta and similarly if any case is filed against Karta’s family then also it is filed in name of Karta. This makes clear that a Hindu joint family functions through Karta. “Most importantly, if any judgement is passed against Karta then it becomes legally binding upon all the other members of the family despite the fact that they were not included as parties in the act. Karta is expected to show utmost sincerity and earnestness in matters of litigation.”
3. Powers over family income
Karta exerts substantial powers and control over the joint family’s income and earnings. Family members must give their income to Karta and then he is under obligation to allot funds and fulfil needs of family members. Most importantly, “Karta is not under legal obligation to save or economize family member’s earnings.” The deciding powers regarding how to spend earnings or on whom to spend exclusively lies with Karta. If any member of the joint family is dissatisfied with Karta’s expenses then he or she can demand partition and Karta has to allocate appropriate shares to him or her.
4. Alienation of property
Karta’s powers of property alienation in the joint family are restricted and limited. “Karta has the right to alienate the joint property of the family only under exceptional circumstances.” These circumstances include necessity in legal terms, benefits of estate and so on. Moreover, Karta can exercise his powers of alienation only with the consent of the family members.
5. Supremacy to bring an issue to the Arbitrator
Arbitration is a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) which is generally preferred to resolve disputes other than the conventional method of courts and litigation. The karta can refer any case to an arbitrator that includes various interests of Hindu joint family members. The award rendered by the arbitrator is known as an ‘arbitration award’ that is legally binding upon the members of the joint family.
6. Capacity of Compromise
The Karta can exercise his extensive powers to compromise disputes pertaining to the family property or its management. In addition to this, he can also use his powers to compromise a pending litigation in the court and the judgment provided will become binding upon other members as well. Karta can as well compromise pending family debts and various transactions and if his act of compromise is not bonafied then the act can be challenged in litigation.
7. Power of Acknowledgement
The Karta is entitled to acknowledge any debt on behalf of the family members. He also has exclusive powers to “pay interest on a debt” if he wishes to. Moreover, he can pay a part of debt or full payment of debt. Most importantly it is important to know that Karta has no authority to acknowledge a time-barred debt taken by the family members.
8. Karta’s power to contract Debts
The karta has the legal and sole authority to come into a debt contract agreement for the interest and benefit of joint family members. The contract debt is binding upon the members of the family. However, if Karta fails to repay the debt amount himself then his son will be responsible for repayment of such debts. “This phenomenon is called doctrine of Pious Obligation.”
“When a creditor seeks to make the entire joint family liable for such debts it is necessary for him to prove that the loan was taken for the family purpose or in the ordinary course of business or that he made proper and bona fied enquiries as to existence of need.” The expression’s family purpose has almost the same meaning as legal necessity, benefits of estate or performance of indispensable and pious duties.
9. Authority to enter into a Contract
Karta has legitimate powers to become a direct party into any contract. “Such contracts are generally binding upon the other family members.”
10. Karta of a trading joint family
Along with having many non-trading joint family Karta powers, he also has additional powers with matters pertaining to trading joint families. Karta can take any amount of debt for the welfare of the family members even if he has to sell his property. “The members of Hindu joint family of Karta are also responsible for the misdeed of the karta carried out in the course of business.”
In Ambalal v. Bihar Hosiery Mills, the son who inherited a mining lease from their father was held liable for damages caused to the overhead building.
Accountabilities of Karta
1. When the family members decide to put an end to the joint status of the family and demand partition, in such case karta has to prepare accounts. However, if any coparcener is not justified with its share then they can challenge it in litigation.
2. Karta is also liable to pay taxes on behalf of the family members.
3. He is also accountable for nuptial ceremonies in the family such as the marriage of unmarried members.
4. Since Karta is the head of the joint Hindu family, he is liable for the maintenance of all the family members.
Privileges of Karta
1. Karta has exclusive powers to act on behalf of other family members. It should be noted that Karta is unlike any agent.
2. Generally Karta is not accountable to anyone. The only exception is if he does any misappropriation or fraud.
3. Karta is liable to manage affairs of his joint family.
4. The office of Karta is independent and beyond comparison.
Position of Karta
1. Karta holds a unique position called Sui Generis. The relationship between Karta and his family members is unlike the relationship between partners in a partnership firm.
2. Karta is the sole head of its family and other members act through him. He represents family members in various social or religious matters.
3. Even though Karta shares a fiduciary relationship with other family members, it debars the possibility of Karta being a trustee.
4. If any coparceners accuse Karta of unjustifiable alienation of property then the burden of proof remains to that coparcener. He has to prove his charges against Karta.
• http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1497/Karta-of-a-Family-/-Hindu-Law.html (Visited on May 15,2020)
• Dr.Paras Diwan and Peeyushi Diwan, Family Law (Allahabad Law Agency,Allahabad,10th edn.,2013)
Author: Shubham Sharma,
Delhi Metropolitan Education ,IP University