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Eldest male member becomes the karta of a joint family

However, the senior member may give up his right of management, and a junior member may be appointed manager

In a family comprising of a son, father and mother, if the father dies, who will be the co-parcener and karta? Also, if the son has two children, will they be beneficiaries or co-parceners or members to the grandfather’s Hindu Undivided Family (HUF)?

—Chandrashekhar

At the outset it is important to understand the concept of a joint Hindu family and a Hindu co-parcenary. These concepts are set out in Mulla’s commentary (21st edition 2010) as under:

(1) A joint Hindu family consists of all person lineally descended from a common ancestor, and includes their wives and unmarried daughters. Daughter ceases to be a member of her father’s family on marriage, and becomes a member of husband’s family.

(2) A Hindu co-parcenary is a much narrower body than the joint family. It includes only those persons who acquire by birth an interest in the joint or co-parcenary property. These are the sons, grandsons and great-grandsons of the holder of the joint property for the time being.

The proposition in paragraph 2 must be read in the light of what is stated in paragraph 1. It must also be kept in mind that after the amendment of the Hindu Succession Act in 2005, a daughter of a co-parcener has been included as a co-parcener along with the sons of the co-parcener.

As also set out in Mulla’s commentary, so long as the members of a family remain undivided, the senior member of the family is entitled to manage the family properties, including charitable properties, and is presumed to be the manager until the contrary is shown. However, the senior member may give up his right of management, and a junior member may be appointed manager. A junior member can act as karta if the senior member has relinquished his right expressly or impliedly or in the absence of the manager under exceptional circumstances. On the death of karta, the senior-most male adult member may be brought on record in execution proceedings.

In response to the first part of your query, ordinarily, the senior most male member is the karta of the joint family. He does not owe his position to any agreement or consent of other co-parceners. So long as he is alive, even though he may be aged, infirm, or ailing, he will continue to be the karta. While there appear to be differing views on whether a mother or a wife can be a karta, the Supreme Court in Commissioner of Income Tax versus Govindram Sugar Mills (AIR 1966 SC 24) has held that only a co-parcener can be a karta of a joint family. Since a widow or a mother is not a co-parcener, she cannot be the karta. Therefore, in this case, upon the death of the father, his son will be the karta of their HUF.

In response to the second part of the question, all those persons who are born into a family, up to three generations, will be co-parceners in that family. In the instant case, the two children of the son will become co-parceners irrespective of whether the grandchildren are male or female.

Queries and views at mintmoney@livemint.com

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