For a long period, property rights were passed down exclusively to males in families, and because only men can inherit property, men will continue to dominate women’s bodies and lives. Because it was socially unacceptable for married women to become legal guardians of collective property, their participation in the decentralisation movement was hampered.
Controversy erupted when CIT (The Centre for Internet and Technology) attempted to assert that a woman could be referred to as a Karta before the Hindu Succession Act of 2005 is amended, as stated in CIT v. Seth Laxmi Narayan Raghunathan, in which it was stated that women could be Karta because they were coparceners, but their membership in the fraternity of Hindu priests known as the Karta.
This article compares women’s life before and during the passage of the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005, examining the impact of these changes on their existence. This article discusses the gender issues that arise when analysing the respective contributions of men and wives to joint Hindu families, but it also discusses gender issues in Hindu jointness. Additionally, it portrays the condition of a family in the aftermath of the 2005 amendment.
EVOLUTION OF THE CONCEPT OF FEMALE AS KARTA
In contemporary India, it is almost exclusively connected with men. We shall refer to this as “female representation” because no specific resolutions have been created. This occurs frequently when Karta recruit’s female personnel. The first judicial ruling respecting female temple attendants was given out in the case of Pandurang Dahake v. Pandurang Gorle. The defendant’s relative sought collection on a debt he paid via post-dated promissory notes signed by his mother. By executing the defendant’s signature, the cousin’s mother (who was their guardian as well as manager). If both spouses work diligently, they can operate the family business. She obtained the debt while concurrently serving as both guardian and manager of the child. To help the court until a new judge is appointed, she requested that she be temporarily assigned to the position of the judicial officer.
The widow was permitted to engage in the family after the kid reached legal age, but the court refused her permission. Karta was granted a distinct personality, albeit the court erred in this instance. These cases occurred as a result of newly filed court cases involving female managers and co-owners. Men, on the other hand, can become coparceners; women, on the other hand, cannot. As a result, managerial competence necessitates the capacity for co-ownership. According to the lawsuit filed by the income tax commissioner against the governor of the sugar mill, the complaint determined that the gender of the partner is not necessary for success. Until the child attains majority, his mother has the legal authority to represent him. A woman must be born into a male-dominated Hindu family to qualify as a Karta.
THE HINDU SUCCESSION ACT (1956)
This statute abolished the long-established practice of male heirs inheriting all property upon their demise without passing it on to female successors. This was India’s Hindu law, which guaranteed everyone’s liberty. A component of the Hindu Code Bill was also derived from Section 14 of this Act, which describes any property obtained by a Hindu woman as her absolute property as of June 17, 1956.
According to the Act, both movable and fixed property, such as land and constructions, are considered property. Section 14 is retroactive as a result of this. It is critical to remember that stridhan is administered to males and women alike. Both men and women must meet two conditions in order to be given stridhan or ultimate bequest: the property must be owned, and the individual must have owned the house at the time the Act was adopted. However, when a woman’s late husband’s property is at stake, the act is silent.
PROBLEMS OF THE ACT
This legislation has provisions that serve to perpetuate gender inequity. According to Section 15, a daughter-in-law can inherit only if she is widowed. She is not entitled to inherit the portion while her spouse is still living. Hinduism accords a special significance to the dwelling house, which cannot be separated, according to the smritikaras. Only male heirs were considered successors in the case of a residential residence, not female heirs.
Section 23 of the legislation makes it very plain that females may claim partition of the dwelling place only with the permission of male members to split their shares. Section 23 makes a distinction between the entitlements of married, unmarried, and widowed daughters to the house. Daughters who are married do not have a right to partition or residence. These restrictions are imposed just on females and not on males. As a result, the 1956 Hindu Succession Act defines the concept of stridhan but not the issue of partition, married daughters’ right of residence in the dwelling-house, or a share of partition. This issue reveals an ageist practice.
THE HINDU SUCCESSION (AMENDMENT) ACT 2005
Adoption of this statute was essential in achieving the most substantial benefits for women in terms of property inheritance. This legislation has two consequences:
- Women now have the option to participate actively in coparcenary property, including the right to partition an ancestral home site.
- Within the Joint Hindu Family property, she serves as the estate manager.
Women are no longer limited in their ability to exercise full ownership rights over property inherited from their parents or husbands. Managing the property is a centuries-old tradition that was previously performed exclusively by coparcener males. Finally, women are now capable of managing property. The 2005 amendments made it possible for daughters to become co-owners of the property. Prior to this amendment, the only thing provided to girls was equal treatment with their boys. However, with this adjustment, females will get the same pay and obligation as sons. Additionally, this act repeals the rule of survivorship and the concept of piety debt, which requires sons to repay the debts of their deceased fathers.
While the 2005 Hindu Succession Amendment Act made significant changes to Indian culture, it had little effect on how people think about it now. Due to the widespread belief that “decent women do not inherit property,” daughters are unable to defend their rights as coparceners upon marriage. When a female inherits property, the part of the boys or her brothers is decreased. This is considered inappropriate by the majority of Indians. Women face difficulties inheriting their portion of coparcener property due to prior practice. Their primary issue is that the majority of Hindu women are reared by their dads.
They have been teased since childhood in order for their future spouses and families to accept them for who they are. It is customary for large Indian household daughters’ minds to be moulded. It’s unfortunate that our girls are being brainwashed in this way. Numerous research and interviews have highlighted women’s disparate opinions toward property inheritance. They want land yet do not wish to inherit it.
They are despised by the so-called Indian society because they believe that inheriting land would strain family ties. This is the sentiment of an Indian woman towards the inheritance of her parent’s property. Their brother may also agree to partake in the property of their parents. On another issue, over 60% of women are unaware that they can inherit their parents’ property as a coparcener. The daughters are unaware that they are now coparceners.
Their lack of education provided additional justifications for their ignorance of the new legislation. Women and Indian society both require education. Women are likewise viewed as inferior in India’s society. Without “socioeconomic and cultural methods” to empower women, they would be powerless to fight for their rights. To ensure that they do not later ask for division and renounce their rights to other male family members, females in states such as Haryana and Rajasthan are required to sign release/relinquishment forms.
Numerous tribes and groups are adamant about not accepting daughters or women as coparceners. That is why women struggle and suffer throughout their lives as a result of their rigid devotion to a standard or custom. Despite this, many Indians are not entitled to a fair share of their forefathers’ property. Additionally, the researchers discovered that daughters received their part only in specified circumstances and not by right. When no sons are born or when all sons die, the daughter inherit.
Because the situation is still fluid, she benefits from both sides. The 2005 amending statute says nothing about women becoming Kartas. Although it mentions equal rights for men and women, it also tries to uphold Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Women’s status is still uncertain. The laws are created to better govern society. Women now share equal participation in all sectors with men. The time has changed, and the legislature must remove women from Karta.
The Hindu Succession Act has been modified; however, women are still not considered natural inheritors. Lack of understanding about their rights, illiteracy, and financial resources are factors that contribute to this. The state and the constitution both guarantee these rights. Female Kartas are not recognised by Indian banks or the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), therefore bank accounts for HUFs with female Kartas cannot be opened. This is notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in the case. The RBI views this as a policy issue and will not accept complaints.
Currently, it is believed that HUF can only occur if there is a common male ancestor. This means that property inherited from the mother cannot be put into HUF unless there is an existing legally constituted HUF. The authorities still hold such an outmoded perspective. This way of thinking is outdated and must be changed quickly. This will also be in line with the current administration’s agenda and the Supreme Court’s judgement. A divorced woman inheriting property from her mother to support her children should be treated as a HUF with the woman as a Karta. In the absence of an established HUF, the female should be permitted to build one. A daughter may also decide to adopt.
If she inherits property from either of her parents, it should be treated as the property of the HUF or a new HUF. Daughters will get financial and social security. The actual goal of creating a HUF with a female as Karta will be served. So, it is proposed that all authorities/institutions in India immediately acknowledges a girl as Karta of HUF, whether she receives property from a male or female ancestor. Husband and children should be permitted to join the wife’s HUF. I also believe that because of the diverse customs across Hindu groups in India, HUF should be codified. A Uniform Civil Code (UCC) for all Hindus should also be attempted. This will lead to women’s empowerment and will be in line with the current Government’s aims and vision.
Author(s) Name: G Sai Sangamitra (Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Vishakapatnam)
 Pandurang Dahake v Pandurang Gorle (1945) AIR Nag 178
 Hindu succession Act 1956
 Suraj mal v Babulal (1985) ILR 95
 Kailash v Kishan Pat (2004) 138 PLR 537
 The Hindu succession Act 2005
 Rajuram v Dheendhayal (1970) AIR 1019
 Dr. Neeta Beril, ‘Delhi High Court’s Judgement opened the doors for women to be karta’, Legal readings (2021)
 International Journal of Law and Legal Jurisprudence Studies (2016)
 Commissioner Of Income-Tax, C. P. v Sethi Laxmi Narayan (1948) 16 ITR 313 (Nag)