Fixing notional income for homemaker a step towards Constitutional vision of social equality: Supreme Court in Motor Accident case

"... 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."
Fixing notional income for homemaker a step towards Constitutional vision of social equality: Supreme Court in Motor Accident case

A homemaker contributes to the economic condition of the family and the economy of the nation, the Supreme Court emphasised on Tuesday, adding that fixing notional income for contributions of homemakers in motor accident cases is a step towards social equality.

The Court further opined that while deciding the notional income for a homemaker, there can be no fixed approach to determine it and that the only aim should be to provide just compensation.

"There can be no exact calculation or formula that can magically ascertain the true value provided by an individual gratuitously for those that they are near and dear to. The attempt of the Court in such matters should therefore be towards determining, in the best manner possible, the truest approximation of the value added by a homemaker for the purpose of granting monetary compensation", reads the judgment.

The Supreme Court went on to observe that,

"... 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."

The Court was hearing an appeal moved by two toddler daughters and the elderly father of a man, who had died along with his wife following a bike collision with a car.

The Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) had ordered a compensation of Rs 47 lakhs, which was reduced to Rs 22 lakhs by the Delhi High Court. The claimants challenged the High Court ruling before the Supreme Court, which came up before a Bench of Justices NV Ramana, Abdul Nazeer and Surya Kant.

Justices S Abdul Nazeer, NV Ramana, Surya Kant
Justices S Abdul Nazeer, NV Ramana, Surya Kant

Justice Ramana, elaborating on how notional income should be calculated for homemakers, made pertinent observations on the variety of work done by them.

"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," reads the judgment.

The Court noted that fixing the notional income for home makers serves a very important purpose as it signals that they "in a very real way contribute 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."

The Court went on to comment that it is also "a step towards the constitutional vision of social equality and ensuring dignity of life to all individuals."

The judgment authored by Justice Surya Kant for himself and Justice Nazeer held that argument by the insurance company that no future prospects ought to be considered for those with notional income, "is both incorrect in law and without merit considering the constant inflation ­induced increase in wages."

Justice NV Ramana, in his separate opinion, emphasised that,

"... 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."

In this view, the top court partly allowed the appeal and fixed the compensation at Rs 33.2 lakhs. It accepted age multiplier of 17 adopted by the Delhi High Court.

[Read judgment]

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