A joint family or undivided family is an extended family arrangement prevalent throughout the Indian subcontinent, particularly in India, consisting of many generations living in the same household, all bound by the common relationship.
Historically, for generations India had a prevailing tradition of the joint family system or undivided family. Joint family system is an extended family arrangement prevalent throughout the Indian subcontinent, particularly in India, consisting of many generations living in the same home, all bound by the common relationship. A patrilineal joint family consists of an older man and his wife, his sons and daughters and his grandchildren from his sons and daughters.
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 household, minor religious practices and often wields considerable influence in domestic matters. Family income flows into a common pool, from which resources are drawn to meet the needs of all members, which are regulated by the heads of the family. However, with urbanisation and economic development, India has witnessed a break up of traditional joint family into more nuclear-like families and the traditional joint family in India accounted for a small percent of Indian households.
A Hindu Undivided Family or H.U.F is a legal term related to the Hindu Marriage Act. The female members are also given the right of share to the property in the H.U.F. The term ‘Hindu Undivided Family’ finds reference in the provisions of the income tax act but the expression is not defined in the act. There are various aspects of Hindu Law which are relevant for the purpose assessment of income and wealth in the status of Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) as well as the impact of the provisions of Hindu Succession Act 1956 as amended by Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act 2005 which are relevant for the purpose of assessment of income and wealth in the status of H.U.F under Income Tax Act 1961.
In the case of Surjit lal Chhabra 101 ITR 776 SC, wherein the court explained the scope of the said expression as under :- In the first place, joint family and undivided family are synonymous terms. The expression ‘Hindu Undivided Family’ must be construed in the sense, in which it is understood under the Hindu law. “A joint Hindu family consists of persons lineally descended from a common ancestor and includes their wives and unmarried daughters. The daughter, on marriage, ceases to be a member of her father's family and becomes a member of her husband’s family.”
In 2016 a judgment of the Delhi high court was made public in which it was ruled that the eldest female member of a Hindu Undivided Family can be its "Karta".
In Hindu undivided family, different relationships are addressed via different names. Nature of relationship also varies. Few relations are of equivalence, few of mutual respect and few are teasing in nature. In joint families in north and central India, between a bride or sister-in-law and her younger brother-in-law a joking or teasing relationship is common, while the relationship towards an older brother-in-law is that of respectfulness.
In a traditional joint Hindu family, there is a subservient relationship between the wives of the brothers; that is to say, the patriarch’s wife is addressed as "Badi Bhabhi (in Hindi)", meaning ‘eldest brother’s wife’. She is traditionally considered the mistress of the house, and is in charge of running the household affairs and overseeing the servants (if any). The subsequent younger brothers’ wives typically seek her advice and permission in regards to any matters/decisions regarding the household and rearing of the children. In popular culture, Hindi dramas typically display these relationships as contentious, as the badi bhabhi frequently abuses her position of power.