JOINT HINDU FAMILY
Hindu joint family is a fundamental aspect of life of Hindu. Its origin can be traced to ancient patriarchal system which was one of the earliest systems of human society. According to Mitakshara law a Hindu joint family consists of the common ancestor and all his lineal male descendants up to any generation together with the wife(s) or widows and unmarried daughters of the common ancestor and of the lineal male descendant. It can consist of any degrees of generations. A ‘child in womb’ is also deemed to be a member of joint family for limited purposes. The existence of the common ancestor is necessary for bringing a joint family into existence but not necessary for its continuance. Joint family revolves around some joint property though it is not essential that at every point of time there should be some joint property. The existence of some joint property is essential for commencement of the joint family status but in order to destroy the joint status of family, a mere loss of property is not sufficient rather there should be partition. The family should have jointness not only in estate rather in food and worship. Though, mere severance in food and worship does not operate as a separation. Speaking about the characteristic features of joint Hindu family, the Supreme Court in Surjit Lal Chabda v. Commissioner of Income Tax, AIR 1976 SC 109, observed that the joint Hindu family is thus a larger body consisting of a group of persons who are united by the tie of ‘Sapindaship’ arising by birth, marriage or adoption. The fundamental principle of the joint Hindu family is sapindaship. It is a natural association based on sapindaship. It does not take more than one male to form a joint Hindu family with females, is well established. For creation of Hindu joint family, existence of a common male ancestor is essential but for its continuance a common male ancestor is not required. Death of common male ancestor does not mean that Hindu joint family has ended.
Chief characteristics of Hindu joint family
1. It cannot be created by the act of the members or by an agreement. It is a creation of law.
2. Status can be acquired only by birth, marriage or adoption.
3. It has no distinct legal entity separate from its members. In Chotey Lal and Others v. Jhandey Lal and Another, AIR 1972 All 424, it was held that a joint Hindu family is neither a juristic person nor a corporation.
4. It is a unit represented by Karta.
5. Member of Hindu joint family can be ousted due to partition, conversion, valid adoption or by marrying a non Hindu.
6. It may consist of a single male member and his wife and daughters, or a single male member and a widow of coparcener, or even when there are only widows. In Sitabai v. Ram Chandra, AIR 1970 SC 343, it was held that even on the death of sole surviving coparcener, the Hindu joint family does not come to an end so long as it is possible in nature or law (i.e. adoption) to add a male member to it. A single male or female cannot make a joint family. There must be at least two members to constitute it. Therefore, by this reasoning there can be a situation where there are only two widows and they constitute join Hindu family.
Management of joint family : The affairs of a joint family are managed by the head of the family who is called the ‘manager’ or ‘Karta‘. The father, if living, would generally be the Karta of the joint Hindu family. He is considered as the representative of the family and supreme in the management of the family. If father is not alive, then presumption is that the senior most member of the family will be Karta. A minor cannot be Karta unless circumstances require so.
Enjoyment of joint family property : Under Mitakshara law, the members of Hindu undivided family have got following rights in respect of joint family property :—
1. Right of maintenance and residence.
2. Right to claim partition,
3. Right to call out for an account as incidental to the right, and
4. The right to possession and enjoyment, etc.