A Karta of a joint family is usually the senior most male member and coparcener. However, post 2005 even a woman can be the Karta.
The Karta manages the business and affairs of joint family property. It is implied that they will work with bonafide intention, in the best interests of the family.
All income of joint family property is handled by them. They have limited powers when it comes to alienation of joint family property. It can be done where:
- Consent of all coparceners is given (express authorization), since it is binding on the interests of all members,
- For legal necessity: Any necessity that can be justified in law. The karta should act in the manner a reasonable prudent person, entrusted with the welfare of family and family property would. Example- Pressure to pay off a debt may force the karta to alienate the property due to lack of money, and inadequate resources.
- Benefit of the state: it includes both- actions for profit/improvement/betterment, and defensive actions for protection from threatened danger. Again, due care and diligence must be exercised. Example- Sale of property for construction of dikes and bunds, to prevent flooding of land.
- Performance of religious or charitable purposes: It is essential to note that no alternate resources must be available. The whole property cannot be alienated, unlike in other cases. Only a part of it can. Example- selling a portion of the property to perform funeral rites for family members.
This is called judicial authorization.
In other words- The Karta has a right to manage joint family affairs and in course of its management, they can sell the joint family property exceeding their own share and including the portion of the dissenting coparceners for can also decide whether there exists a need of the family, justifying an alienation of the property, or not; decide what appropriate action is to be taken for the sustenance of the family members or for the protection and benefit of the property; and to what extent money is to be spent for the performance of religious and indispensable duties.
Kartas can also challenge unauthorized alienations. However, there are certain restrictions as well. Due diligence and care has to be exercised at all times. He is the custodian of the family interest and his actions are backed by a presumption of the promotion of general family affairs. They are not entitled to any remuneration, and all funds are joint family funds. Where Karta misappropriates or uses joint family funds for purposes other than for family benefits, he is liable to refund the amount
They are responsible for maintenance,marriage of unmarried members, funeral rites and other expenses. The have to make such decisions judiciously, especially if they involve alienation of a part of the property. They must carefully assess the situation before taking any decision with respect to alienation. Further, in circumstances where consent of members is required, the Karta must ensure that all members, including minors, have consented to the alienation. If a major’s consent is not taken, it will be voidable at the option of him/her whose consent was not taken. If funds are misappropriated, then members could ask for a partition. Therefore, the Karta has to act reasonably and economically.
 Sujata Sharma v. Manu Gupta, 2015 SCC OnLine Del 14424
Poonam Pradhan Saxena: Family Law
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