In December 2015, the Delhi High Court gave a decision, stating that a daughter can be the Karta of an HUF (Hindu Undivided Family). The root of this decision lies in the amendment passed to the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, in 2005. The Hindu Succession Act is applicable to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. The amendment drastically changed the rights of daughters in the property of the parental HUF.
Position prior to the amendment
The Hindu law recognises the concept of HUF, which means a family of persons who are lineally descended from a common ancestor and related with each other by birth or marriage. The people who are so descended from commons ancestors, were divided in two parts. In the first category are coparceners. Only males were recognised as coparceners of the HUF and all the females were called members. All the coparceners are members but vice-versa is not true.
The rights of coparceners and members in the property of the HUF, are different. Coparceners have the right to ask for partition of the property and to get the shares. Members of the HUF, like daughters and mothers, had the right of maintenance from HUF property, as well as to get a share in the property of the HUF as and when partition of the HUF took place. Upon marriage, the daughter would cease to be a member of the HUF of the father and would thus, no longer be entitled to the right of maintenance as well as to get a share in the property of the HUF, if the property were partitioned after her marriage. As only a coparcener was entitled to become the Karta of the HUF, the female members were not entitled to become a Karta of the HUF and manage its affairs.
Position after the amendment
Section 6 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, which deals with coparcener’s right in the HUF property, was amended in 2005 w.e.f September 9, 2005. With this amendment, daughters have been put at par with sons, as far as coparcenary rights in HUF property are concerned. Consequently, the daughter gets all the rights attached with coparcenary, including the right to ask for partition of the property and to become a Karta of the HUF.
However, only the daughters who are born in the family, will get the coparcenary rights. Other female members, who come into the family by virtue of marriage, are still treated as members only. Thus, they are not entitled to ask for the partition but are entitled for maintenance and shares as and when partition takes place.
After marriage, a daughter will cease to be a member of her parental HUF, but will continue to be a coparcener. Thus, she is entitled to ask for partition of the HUF property, as well as to become the Karta of the HUF, in case she happens to be eldest coparcener of her father’s HUF.
Even in case of a married daughter who has died, her children shall be entitled to the shares that she would have received, if she was alive on the date of the partition. In case none of her children are alive on the day of partition, the grandchildren will be entitled to the shares that the daughter would have received on partition.
Interestingly the daughter cannot gift her share in the HUF property while she is alive but she is fully capable of giving away her share in the HUF property by way of a will. If a will is not prepared, on her death, her share in the joint property shall not devolve on other members of the HUF but will pass on to her legal heirs.
(The author is a taxation and home finance expert, with 35 years’ experience)