Homemaker wife who toils for family entitled to equal share in assets purchased by husband: Madras High Court

Justice Krishnan Ramasamy held that a housewife contributes to the household equally, though indirectly, by taking care of the home and enabling her husband to step out for work without having to worry about the home.
Madras High Court
Madras High Court

A housewife manages the house, sacrifices her own dreams to enable the husband to step out and earn, and contributes equally towards acquisition of family assets and is ,therefore, entitled to half the share in all the assets acquired by her husband in his own name, the Madras High Court recently held.

In a judgement passed on June 21, Justice Krishnan Ramasamy held that while no legislation has been enacted so far in India to recognise the contributions made by a wife either directly or indirectly, the Court could very well recognise such contribution.

"The contribution which wives make towards acquisition of the family assets by performing their domestic chores, thereby releasing their husbands for gainful  employment, would be a factor which, this Court would specifically take into account while deciding the right in the properties either the title stand in the name of the husband or wife and certainly, the spouse who looks after the home and cares for family for decades, entitled to a share in the property. If, on marriage, she gives up her paid work in order to devote herself to caring for her husband and children, it is an unwarrantable hardship when in consequence she finds herself in the end with nothing she can call her own," the High Court said.

Hence, if the acquisition of assets is made by joint contribution, directly or indirectly, of both the spouses for the welfare of the family, both would be entitled to equal share, the Court underscored.

The judge, therefore, allowed the appeal filed by one Kamsala Ammal, who had sought a share in the properties that were in the name of her deceased husband.

The High Court examined five properties in question, two of which had been acquired by her husband out of his savings from the money he had earned while working in Saudi Arabia, another a land parcel that the deceased husband had bought in Ammal's name, and some jewellery and sarees that were kept in bank lockers held by Ammal.

Ammal's claim to a share in such assets had been contested, initially by her husband, and after he died, by her children.

In 2015, a local court had rejected Ammal's claim for an equal share in three of the five above mentioned properties and assets.

The High Court, however, held that though the contested properties had been acquired by the husband out of his own savings, Ammal was entitled to a 50 percent share. It further held that the contents of the two bank lockers had been purchased by the deceased as gifts for Ammal and therefore, those solely belonged to her.

"In the present case, the properties purchased particularly, Item Nos.1 and 2  of the schedule mentioned properties are concerned, when the plaintiff (husband) was in abroad, he used to send monies from time to time to the 1st defendant/wife,who in turn, out of  the said monies, purchased the Item Nos.1 and 2. Though the properties were purchased  from and out of the monies sent by the plaintiff, it cannot be ignored that the  contributions made by the 1st defendant/wife as discussed above, without which, certainly, the plaintiff could not have saved money and acquired those said properties.  These are all the aspects, though proved by documentary evidence, Ex.A1 to Ex.A11 both the Courts below have not dealt with it in a proper perspective and erroneously  held that only the plaintiff has the absolute right over Item Nos.1 and 2 of the schedule mentioned properties," the High Court said.

Senior Counsel S Parthasarathy appeared for the original plaintiffs, Kannain, the now deceased husband, and his two sons.

Advocate V Anusha appeared for the original defendant, the wife.

M/s T Jayalakshmi was the amicus curiae appointed in the case by the High Court.

[Read Judgement]

Kannain Naidu v Kamsala Ammal.pdf
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