Indian Court Rules That Women May Now Be The Head Of Their Own Households


While activists in the United States fight for pay equality among men and women, females in other countries still aren’t afforded the basic rights taken for granted elsewhere. For example, women in Saudi Arabia may not drive, go anywhere without a chaperone or even go swimming. And, until recently, Indian women were not allowed to be the head of their own household.

Earlier this year, however, the last injustice was righted. According to Times of India, a court in New Delhi ruled that the eldest female member of a family can now be its “Karta”, a position hitherto reserved only for the eldest male.

The verdict said that there is “no restriction” on a woman becoming a family’s karta — a role demarcated by ancient Hindu customs and scripture that defines the manager of a joint family. Traditionally inherited by men, the karta assumes a preeminent position within the family, which comes with the authority to handle its own rituals, property, assets, and other key matters.

The ruling was a result of a lawsuit filed by the eldest daughter of one of the city’s business families. Her father had four brothers, but all had passed away. As a result, her cousin – the eldest son of a deceased uncle – claimed he was the rightful karta. Thanks to the court’s ruling, she may now claim legal authority over her family and their assets.

Said the Delhi court’s Justice Najmi Waziri:

“If a male member of a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF), by virtue of his being the first-born eldest, can be a karta, so can a female member.”

The court deemed it “rather odd” that following the amendments, “while females would have equal rights of inheritance in an HUF property, this right could nonetheless be curtailed when it comes to the management of the same”. It was pointed out that Section 6 of Hindu Succession Act did not place any restriction on women becoming the Karta.

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