Important Social Institutions & Issues

Social Institutions: Family, Marriage and Kinship: Please read this blog for basic knowledge about family; this blog about marriage and this one for kinship. These provide only fundamental knowledge and don’t need to be included here for GS Mains.

Concept of HUF and Recent HC Judgement

In January, 2016, in a landmark judgement, the Delhi High Court has held that the eldest daughter can also be a ‘karta’ (manager) of the Hindu Undivided Family.

What is the Hindu Undivided Family (HUF)?

Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) concept is based on traditions and customs.  An HUF consists of all persons who are lineally descended from a common ancestor, including their wives and daughters. Sons-in-law and daughters-in-law are not part of the HUF, even though they are members of the ‘joint family’. This is the difference between an HUF and a ‘joint family’.

The concept of HUF comes under the Hindu Succession Act and it applies to all Hindu families. The concept even applies to Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, and to any person in India who is not Christian, Muslim,Parsi or Jew by religion. The members of Scheduled Tribes are exempted from the law.

Who is karta and who are coparceners of HUF?

An HUF consists of karta and coparceners. The karta is generally the eldest person or head of the family whereas all other family members are considered as coparceners. Children are also coparceners of their father’s HUF. When a woman gets married, she becomes a member of her husband’s HUF, while she continuing to be a coparcener of her father’s HUF. The karta manages day-to-day affairs of the HUF. As the “head of the family”, the karta can take decisions related to sell/buy/rent of the property. Even without the consent of the rest of the family, the karta can enter into contracts, compromises and can take loans on behalf of the family. However, this can be done only for the “good of the family”.

What are the provisions for an HUF under Income-tax Act, 1961?

Under Income-tax Act, 1961, an HUF is considered as a ‘person’ i.e. as a separate entity for the purpose of tax assessment. An HUF is taxed with same slab rates as applicable to an individual income tax assesse. An HUF obtains separate Permanent Account Number (PAN) in the name of the HUF. This will bring down the family’s tax liability as the income earned from assets and businesses owned by the HUF are assessed separately. However, once the family income is assessed as an HUF, it will be continued in subsequent assessment years as well till partition is claimed by the coparceners.

What are the provisions about inheritance in an HUF?

In an undivided family, the ancestral property hasn’t been partitioned among the sons and daughters. As per the Hindu Succession Act, all people who born in the family have the right to the HUF property. The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 included only the male members as coparceners. By an amendment to the act in 2005, daughters are also provided equal rights. Daughters become coparceners of their father’s families on birth same as sons, and have the same rights as sons in the family properties.

What is the Delhi High Court’s judgement?

In Delhi High Court, a suit was filed by Sujata Sharma, saying that as the eldest member of their generation, she would be the karta. The male members of the family not allowed her to become karta and said that the 2005 amendment didn’t automatically give her any right to manage the property as karta.

The Delhi High Court bench said that since the 2005 amendment had given equal rights to daughters to become coparceners then there is no reason why daughters should not be allowed to become karta. The court said that by virtue of being the first-born, the eldest daughter can become karta of an HUF.

While the judgement is welcomed, there are apprehensions that the kartaship to women may raise practical problems as women of most business families in the country rarely participate in the actual management of the business and property.

Domestic Violence, DV Act and Recent SC Judgement

Domestic violence is a worldwide phenomenon. In India, it is prevalent in all castes, classes, religious groups and regions. Most of domestic violence incidents are against women however, men are also victim of the same.

Domestic Violence against Women

There are a number of factors as cause of domestic violence against women such as patriarchal structure of the families; strong link between demand for dowry and domestic violence; hesitancy to report cases of domestic violence and other factors such as socioeconomic class, educational level and family structure beyond the patriarchal framework.

In India, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 defines and covers the domestic violence against women. This law has defined domestic violence as “any act, omission or commission or conduct of the respondent which:

  1. harms or injures or endangers the health, safety, life, limb or well-being, whether mental or physical, of the aggrieved person or tends to do so and includes causing physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal and emotional abuse and economic abuse; or
  2. harasses, harms, injures or endangers the aggrieved person with a view to coerce her or any other person related to her to meet any unlawful demand for any dowry or other property or valuable security; or
  3. has the effect of threatening the aggrieved person or any person related to her by any conduct mentioned in clause (a) or clause (b); or
  4. otherwise injures or causes harm, whether physical or mental, to the aggrieved person.”


The effects of physical and emotional abuse that women suffer are manifested in serious physical health problems, like injury, unwanted pregnancy, STDs, miscarriage, permanent disabilities etc. Apart from these mental health effects like depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorders etc. also occur.

Protection: Legal Measures

While dowry related violence or cruelty has been covered in section 498-A of the Indian Penal Code, an additional law was enacted by the parliament as Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005 to explicitly define domestic violence in addition to dowry-related cruelty and provide maintenance, shelter, or interim finances to a woman subjected to domestic violence or harassment by an adult male.

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