Family Law Hub

Singh v Singh & Singh [2012] EWHC 615 (Ch)

  • In brief: A case which highlights the Hindu Family Joint System. The claimant was the father ("F") and the defendants were his sons ("S1 and S2"). As a family, they owned and operated a substantial number of hotels (their hotel business was worth in the region of £800million). F was seeking to argue that there was a constructive trust affecting all the property held in S1's name and that F's interest in that constructive trust had been severed. He contended that the constructive trust had arisen by virtue of the Hindu Joint Family System and the principles of Mitakshara. He submitted that S1 had been the family manager or "Karta" and all the property acquired by the parties had been family property owned jointly by them all. S1 was arguing that the Hindu Joint Family System did not apply at all and that there was a dispute of fact as to the family's understanding and adoption of Mitakshara as it applied to their businesses.   

    This particular hearing, which dealt with ancillary matters associated with a now defunct summary judgment application, does not produce much of note but the outcome of the substantive hearing, if reported, could make for very interesting reading indeed.   

    Comment 

    My knowledge of the Hindu Joint Family System is limited, I'm afraid.  From what I have been able to find out, the Hindu Joint Family System refers to an arrangement whereby many generations of one family live under the same roof. The joint family status is as a result of birth rather than marriage so all the male members are blood relatives and all the female members are either mothers, wives, unmarried daughters or widowed relatives. The Karta is effectively the family's patriarch who decision-makes on behalf of the whole family. Significantly, all money is held in a common pool and all property is held jointly. This is how and why problems can arise.  

    Mitakshara refers to a school law which prescribes inheritance by birth and is one of two traditional systems of inheritance amongst Hindus. Every member of a Mitakshara Hindu Joint Family has an undivided interest in the family's property - it seems to me a little like joint tenancy as the rule on death appears to be that the deceased's share of the property passes automatically to the surviving family members. If you know any more about this area of law, let me know!

Case note, published: 17/09/2012

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Published: 17/09/2012

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