The Private Client team at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas shares their comments and opinions shared in an article in the following Q&A which was published by the Mint Newspaper on 12th May, 2020 and the online edition of the same can be found here.
My father recently passed away. We had an Hindu Undivided Family (HUF). It comprises of my mother, my two brothers and one elder sister. My father was the karta. Can we make our mother or unmarried elder sister the karta? What will happen when the sister gets married?
There is a presumption under the Hindu law that the senior most male member is the karta of the HUF (Jandhayala Sreeamma vs Krishnavenamma AIR 1957). He does so automatically under the law, and does not owe his position to agreement or consent of other coparceners. However, in rare cases of insanity or similar disqualifications, the next senior male member generally takes over as the karta.
As your mother would only be a member of the HUF and she would not qualify as a coparcener, she can’t become the karta. By definition, the karta of an HUF would compulsorily need to be a coparcener. A coparcener has various rights at birth itself in the HUF property that may not all be available to a member. For example, a coparcener may claim a partition of the HUF, but the member cannot do the same. Thus, in your case, upon the demise of your father, the eldest male member would be presumed to be the karta.
However, if so desired by you and your siblings that your sister, being the eldest female member of the HUF, be made the karta, that is permissible under law. In the case of Mrs Sujata Sharma vs Shri Manu Gupta & Ors [CS (OS) 2011/2006], the Delhi high court held that an eldest female member of a family, being the coparcener in an HUF, may become the karta of an HUF. The court held that the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 which placed female coparceners on equal footing with male coparceners also extends to the position in relation to a karta of an HUF. The said amendment also states that a female coparcener shall not cease to be a member of her father’s HUF upon her marriage. So this option is open to you.