The joint family system under the Hindu Law is a patriarchal organization. The head of the joint family is known as Karta (Manager); and the senior-most male member of the family will be the Karta. As a head or manager, he is the representative of the family, and acts for, or, on behalf of the family. Generally, where a family consists of father and his children, father will act as Karta or in the absence of father; next senior-most member will be Karta.
However, it is open to the senior member to give up his right of being Karta, in such case, next senior member becomes Karta. But, a woman member is not competent to act as Karta, because a woman cannot be a coparcener. However, a minor may act as manager, through his legal guardian till he attains majority. If all the sons are minors, mother, may act as guardian, but she cannot be a Karta (manager).
Karta is the person in whom, others in the family repose confidence, so between the Karta and the family members there is fiduciary relation because there is always a need of a manager to look after the welfare of minor members and females in a joint Hindu family. Such manager of joint family is known as Karta of the family and he enjoys immense powers in respect of management of the affairs of the family and its property.
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He is regarded as the Head of the family and occupies the supreme position in the matters of family. He is certainly the manager of the family property with powers which an ordinary manager does not possess. The Karta therefore cannot be equated with the manager of the property.
Who may act as Karta?
Generally the father, if living, would be Karta of joint family. It has been held that the father is in all cases naturally and in cases of infant sons, necessarily, the manager of the joint family estate. Where the father is not alive and the joint family consists of brothers only, the eldest brother in absence of any evidence to the contrary, shall be regarded as the manager of the family.
A minor cannot be the manager of a joint Hindu family. Ordinarily the senior member of the coparcenary is the Karta of the family but in some cases with the consent of other coparceners a junior member could also act as the Karta of family. In such a case he could also be dismissed from the office of Karta with the consent of all other coparceners as he was appointed so with their consent only. In a joint family coparcener-ship is an essential legal qualification for becoming a Karta. Hence a widow, who is not a coparcener, cannot become Karta of joint family.
Thus a widow of a coparcener cannot be a Karta of the joint Hindu family consisting of three widows and two minors. She cannot represent the joint Hindu family in any suit. The mother accordingly cannot alienate the share of a minor in joint Hindu family property. In absence of Karta, she could alienate the share of minor in the capacity of guardian with the permission of the Court.