In an important observation that could go a long away in promoting gender equality in the country, the Supreme Court, while hearing an insurance dispute case, said the calculation of notional income of homemakers must be based on their work, labour and sacrifices. "This is in furtherance of our nation's international law obligations and our constitutional vision of social equality and ensuring dignity to all," the court said.
The judgement in the insurance compensation case was delivered by a three-judge bench of Justices NV Ramana, S Abdul Nazeer and Surya Kant.
"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 housemaker undertakes. A housemaker 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," Justice Ramana wrote.
"The issue of fixing notional income for a homemaker, therefore, serves extremely important functions. It is a recognition of the multitude of women who are engaged in this activity, whether by choice or as a result of social/cultural norms. It signals to society at large that the law and the courts of the land believe in the value of the labour, services and sacrifices of homemakers," he added.
The observations came while the court was hearing a case linked to the deaths of a couple - in their twenties - in an accident in 2014. While the husband worked as a teacher, the wife was a homemaker. They have two children.
A tribunal had ordered an insurance company to pay Rs 40.71 lakh as compensation to the family but the Delhi High Court, after hearing an appeal, reduced the amount to Rs 22 lakh.
The Supreme Court, however, ordered the company to pay Rs 33.20 lakh with 9 percent interest from 2014. The amount is to be paid within two months, added the court.
"The Court should ensure while choosing the method, and fixing the notional income, that the same is just in the facts and circumstances of the particular case, neither assessing the compensation too conservatively, nor too liberally," the Supreme Court wrote in its judgement.