NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said the value of a woman’s work at home was no less than that of her office-going husband and enhanced the compensation to relatives of a couple who died when a car hit their scooter in April 2014 in Delhi.
A bench of Justices N V Ramana and Surya Kant enhanced the compensation by Rs 11.20 lakh to Rs 33.20 lakh to be paid to the father of the deceased man by the insurance company with 9% annual interest from May 2014.
Justice Ramana expanded the idea first espoused by the SC in Lata Wadhwa case in 2001 when it had dealt with the issue of compensation for victims of a fire during a function and had ruled that it should be granted to housewives on the basis of services rendered by them in the house. He said as per the 2011 Census, nearly 159.85 million women mentioned “household work” as their main occupation, as against only 5.79 million men. He also referred to a recent report of the National Statistical Office titled ‘Time Use in India-2019’ which suggested that, on an average, women spend nearly 299 minutes a day on unpaid domestic services for household members versus 97 minutes by men.
Similarly, in a day, women spend 134 minutes on unpaid caregiving services for household members as compared to 76 minutes by men. The total time spent on these activities per day makes the picture in India even clearer — women on an average spend 16.9% and 2.6% of their day on unpaid domestic services and unpaid caregiving services for household members respectively, while men spend 1.7% and 0.8&, Justice Ramana said.
“The sheer amount of time and effort that is dedicated to household work by individuals, who are more likely to be women than men, is not surprising when one considers the plethora of activities a homemaker undertakes. A homemaker often prepares food for the entire family, manages the procurement of groceries and other household shopping needs, cleans and manages the house and its surroundings, undertakes decoration, repairs and maintenance work, looks after the needs of the children and any aged member of the household, manages budgets and so much more,” he said.
In rural households, they often also assist in sowing, harvesting and transplanting activities in farms, apart from tending cattle, he said. The issue of fixing notional income for a homemaker, therefore, served an extremely important function and was a recognition of the multitude of women engaged in this activity, whether by choice or as a result of social/cultural norms, the SC said.
“It signals to society at large that the law and courts of the land believe in the value of the labour, services and sacrifices of homemakers. It is an acceptance of the idea that these activities contribute in a very real way to the economic condition of the family, and the economy of the nation, regardless of the fact that it may have been traditionally excluded from economic analyses. It is a reflection of changing attitudes and mindsets and of our international law obligations. And, most importantly, it is a step towards the constitutional vision of social equality and ensuring dignity of life to all individuals,” the bench said.