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A Hindu Joint Family or Hindu undivided family (HUF) or a Joint Family is an extended family arrangement prevalent among Hindus of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of many generations living under the same roof. All the male members are blood relatives and all the women are either mothers, wives, unmarried daughters, or widowed relatives, all bound by the common sapinda relationship. An undivided family, which is the normal condition of a Hindu society, is ordinarily joint; not only in whatever relates to their commensality and their religious duties and observance are regulated by the task of regulation. The joint family status being the result of birth, possession of joint cord that knits the members of the family together is not property but the relationship. The family is headed by a patriarch, usually the oldest male, who makes decisions on economic and social matters on behalf of the entire family. The patriarch's wife generally exerts control over the kitchen, child rearing and minor religious practices. All money goes to the common pool and all property is held jointly. A daughter cannot remain the member of her father’s family after her marriage and the sisters, though they were once entitled to a share in the property, would lose their right and would be entitled to only maintenance until their marriage and their marriage expenses. A joint family may consist of a single male member and widows of the deceased male members and the property of the family does not cease to belong to the joint family merely because the family is represented by a single coparcener who possesses rights which an absolute owner of the property may possess.

There are several schools of Hindu Law, such Mitakshara, the Dayabhaga, the Murumakkattayam, the Aliyasanthana etc. Broadly, Mitakshara and Dayabhaga systems of laws are very common. Family ties are given more importance than marital ties. The arrangement provides a kind of social security in a familial atmosphere.

Due to the development of Indian Legal System, of late, the female members are also given the right of share to the property in the HUF. In CIT vs Veerappa Chettiar, 76 ITR 467 (SC), Supreme Court had occasion to decide on an issue whether after the death of all the male members in a HUF, the HUF would still exist.

Six key aspects of Joint Family are:-

  • all members live under one roof
  • share the same kitchen
  • three generations living together (though often two or more brothers live together, or father and son live together or all the descendants of male live together)
  • income and expenditure in a common pool- property held together.
  • a common place of worship
  • all decisions are made by the male head of the family- patrilineal, patriarchal.

HUF as a partner in a partnership firm

HUF is a joint family consists of all persons lineally descended from a common ancestor. Hence, HUF is a group of members of the same family.

The "father", or the "senior member" of the family called "Karta", ordinarily manages the property belonging to Joint Family. Hence, the status of HUF cannot be termed as person.

The partnership is a relationship between persons who have agreed to share the profits of a business carried on by all or any of them acting for all. Hence, to become a partner in a partnership firm, the partner should be a natural person or recognized as person by the law (Company - by virtue of Companies Act 1956). Since, HUF is not a "person", but only group of persons belonging to the same family and carrying on the family business, HUF cannot be a partner in a partnership firm.

The above view is supported by a catena of judgments.

The Supreme Court of India held (AIR-1930-PC-300 & AIR1956-SC-854) - HUF is an association of persons is "not a person" within the meaning of expression in the Partnership Act. "… it is now well settled that HUF cannot enter into contract of partnership with another person or persons."

The Supreme Court of India, in another case M/s Rasiklal & Co Vs Commissioner of held that "…………. an HUF directly or indirectly cannot become a partner of a firm because the firm is an association of individuals." "…….in law, an HUF can never be a partner of partnership firm."

See also