A joint family Manager is in a fiduciary position as confidence is reposed in him in regard to the management of the property. He is not, however, a trustee in the strict sense of that term. When A is a trustee for B, the property vests legally only in the trustee and so A would be the legal owner. When A is the Karta of the joint family, he does not thereby acquire the legal ownership of the entire coparcenary property.
This is a case of ñî- ownership only for the coparceners are in law owners too. By virtue of his Managership, the Manager’s proprietary interest is not enlarged. He acquires only powers of alienation over the property by virtue of which he can in certain circumstances give a good title to the alienee not only in regard to his share, but in regard to the shares of the other coparceners as well.
The second feature of difference between the Manager and the Trustee lies in the scope of their accountability. A trustee is subject to the rule of strict accounting. In the case of the Karta, it was explained by the Privy Council in Perrazu v. Subbarayadu, 44 Mad. 656 (PC), that this rule is not applicable.
So when a coparcener brings a suit for partition he cannot charge the manager for past mismanagement. He can only call upon him to account for the asset existing at the time of partition. Of course, both a beneficiary and a junior member of the coparcenary have the right to falsify or surcharge as against the accountable party.
That is, they can show that an item of expenditure debited to the account was a false item or that more had been debited than what was actually incurred. The beneficiary can go further and claim that the trustee should make good to him the losses occurring by want of due care and caution on the trustee’s part. The junior coparcener cannot go to this extent. In this respect the position of the Karta is different from that of a trustee.
Whether a woman can be a Karta:
Only a coparcener can be a Karta. A woman is not coparcener. So she cannot be a Karta. Ram Avadh v. Kedarnath, AIR 1976 All. 283; Following Commissioner of I.T. v. G.S. Mills, AIR 1966 SC 24.
In Gangoji Rao v. Channappa, AIR 1983 Kant. 222, A, left his undivided interest in a joint family and his minor sons and widow. The widow alienated the property. The alienation was sought to be set aside by the sons. The alienee was contended that the alienation was supported by necessity. On behalf of the sons it was argued that only a Karta can alienate the joint family property and that no woman can be a Karta.
Rejecting the contention it was held that the mother could be Karta in such a case and that her alienation could be upheld. The contention of the sons is supported by the Supreme Court’s decision in Commissioner of I.T. v. G.S. Mills, AIR 1966 SC 24, and should have been accepted. But the court did not notice that decision and came to an erroneous conclusion.