A Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) is a separate entity that can be created by members of a family, wherein the members are lineal ascendants or descendants. Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs can open HUFs.
A single person cannot create an HUF. Usually the senior-most member of the family is considered the karta that is the person who manages the affairs of the HUF.
In a recent judgment of the Supreme Court of India in Adiveppa vs. Bhimappa, dated 6th September 2017 it was held that a property belonging to all its members is taken as joint property and a family member while staking a claim has to produce evidence if it is ‘self-acquired’.
In the case mentioned above, the Supreme Court was hearing an appeal challenging an Order passed by the Karnataka High Court in a family dispute pertaining to ownership and partition of agricultural lands. It upheld the High Court’s Order which had declared the property as joint property of the family.
The two Judge Bench comprising of Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre said that the burden is always on a family member, claiming ownership over a part of property of joint family, to prove before a Court that it is his self-acquired property and not joint property of the family by placing oral or documentary evidence.
The Bench opined, “It is a settled principle of Hindu law that there lies a legal presumption that every Hindu family is joint in food, worship and estate and in the absence of any proof of division, such legal presumption continues to operate in the family. The burden, therefore, lies upon the member who after admitting the existence of jointness in the family properties asserts his claim that some properties out of entire lot of ancestral properties are his self-acquired property,” the observed.
The Supreme Court further held that the Appellants had failed to prove that the property was self acquired and observed, “In order to prove that the suit properties described in Schedule ‘B’ and ‘C’ were their self-acquired properties, the plaintiffs could have adduced the best evidence in the form of a sale-deed showing their names as purchasers of the said properties and also could have adduced evidence of payment of sale consideration made by them to the vendee. It was, however, not done. Not only that, the plaintiffs also failed to adduce any other kind of documentary evidence to prove their self-acquisition of the Schedule ‘B’ and ‘C’ properties nor they were able to prove the source of its acquisition.”
The Supreme Court in its Order held that, “Not only that, they also failed to adduce any other kind of documentary evidence to prove their self acquisition of properties nor they were able to prove the source of its acquisition”. Thus, the Bench said it was obligatory upon the contesting family members to prove that despite existence of jointness in the family, properties were not part of ancestral properties but were their self-acquired properties and the petitioners failed to prove their claim.