The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the conception that housewives do not work or do not add economic value to the household is “problematic” and needs to be overcome. The Court was dealing with grant of compensation in a motor accident case, where the Delhi High Court had reduced the earning of the deceased wife as she was a homemaker.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice NV Ramana felt that fixing an economic value to the hard work and labour by homemakers is difficult but nevertheless significant. Citing the 2011 Census, Justice Ramana, in a concurring but separate order found that nearly 159.85 million women in India are engaged in “household work” as compared to 5.79 million men.
A recent report released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation showed that on an average, women spend 299 minutes a day on unpaid domestic services for household members versus 97 minutes spent by men on an average. She prepares food, manages procurement of groceries and shopping needs, cleans and manages the house and surroundings, undertakes decoration, repairs and maintenance work and tends to children and aged members of the household.
“Despite all of the above, the conception that housemakers do not work or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that has persisted for many years and must be overcome,” Justice Ramana added.
The bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Surya Kant unanimously agreed to raise the compensation awarded to the motor accident victims – Poonam, a housewife and her husband Vinod – to Rs 33.2 lakh instead of Rs 22 lakh awarded by the High Court.
The Court said that a homemaker’s notional income must be determined by Courts keeping in mind the number of women engaged in this activity, and the value of their labour, service and sacrifices. Their activities contribute in a real way to the economic condition of the family and the economy of the nation and ought to be recognized in reflection of our changing attitudes and mindsets as well as towards achieving the constitutional vision of social equality and dignity of all individuals.
The motor accidents claim in the present case was instituted by the two daughters of the couple who died in April 2014. The Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal awarded the daughters Rs 40.7 lakh compensation but on an appeal by the insurance company, the same was reduced to Rs 22 lakh by High Court