Landmark judgement gives women equal rights in Hindu Undivided Family
A landmark judgement delivered by Justice Waziri at the Delhi High Court , reinforced Section 6 of The Hindu Succession Act, making business leadership in family businesses of the Hindu Undivided Family gender neutral.
If the male member of an HUF, by virtue of being the first-born and the oldest, can be a karta, so can a female member. The court finds no restriction in the law
Justice Najmi Waziri said, “Section 6 gave equal rights of inheritance to Hindu males and females, its objective is to recognise the rights of female Hindus and to enhance their rights to equality apropos succession. Therefore, courts would be extremely vigilant in any endeavor to curtail or fetter statutory guarantee of enhancement of their rights. Now that this disqualification has been removed by the 2005 amendment, there is no reason why Hindu women should be denied the position of a Karta,” as per a report in the DNA
A karta is essentially the eldest surviving member in the family who is the authorized signatory in all business decisions made in the family business. Though the business is owned by everyone living in the family, important decisions and management is overlooked by the karta. Although an amendment was made to this gender bias in 2005, popular belief still presumed that law disqualified a woman from taking up the role of a karta.
This understanding changed when a girl from a Delhi based HUF challenged this hetero-normative idea and pushed for an equal claim to the position as she was the eldest surviving member in the family, but the position was being claimed and betrothed upon the younger male. The court declared, “If the male member of an HUF, by virtue of being the first-born and the oldest, can be a karta, so can a female member. The court finds no restriction in the law preventing the eldest female co-parcener of an HUF from being its karta,”
When there are explicit laws that put women on a level playing field, it is not enough until there is proper awareness and outreach. Though the need for regulations that make power positions in various institutions gender agnostic is absolutely paramount. Without it, there is no recognition of existence of women as a capable resource, which further marginalizes them in the process of progress.