Justice SM Subramaniam
Justice SM Subramaniam
Litigation News

Homemakers are on a higher pedestal than earning members in a family: Madras HC enhances accident compensation for homemaker

"Performing the job of the Homemaker is a toughest one. Homemakers are working without any time limits as they are working with love and affection, which can never be expected from an ordinary employee", the Court said.

Meera Emmanuel

In a unique ruling, the Madras High Court recently accorded an elevated status to the responsibilities of a woman as a homemaker while enhancing the compensation payable to a woman who suffered permanent disabilities following an accident in 2017 (Bhuvaneswari v. Mani and anr).

Justice SM Subramaniam emphasised that homemakers stand on a higher pedestal than even earning members of the family, if the issue is viewed in a fair manner. In his ruling, the Judge observed,

"... in the cases of Homemakers, we cannot forget that the Homemakers are the Nation Builders. They are the sources for making the family happy and happy family alone can constitute a better society and better society can lead the Nation vibrantly. Thus, the Homemakers are not only contributing to their family, but they contributing to the development of our Great Nation. It is realistic, if anyone of the earning member died in the family, there will be an impact. But if the Homemaker died, then the impact would be unmeasurable and the family will become scattered. It would be very difficult to cope up the family."

"Therefore, they (homemakers) are standing in a higher pedestal than that of the earning member in a family. Thus, mitigating factors, family status, income of the husband and other aspects are to be considered while fixing the compensation for Homemakers."
Madras High Court

The Court was hearing a plea moved by one, Bhuvaneswari who had been awarded a sum of Rs 4,86,000 by the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal for the 60% permanent disability she had suffered following a bus accident in 2017.

The Tribunal had fixed a monthly income of Rs 4,500 for Bhuvaneswari, in the absence of any documents to show she was employed. In an appeal moved to enhance the compensation payable, the High Court took critical note of the Tribunal's approach, while also opining that her value as a homemaker ought to have been appreciated by the Tribunal.

Justice Subramaniam observed that there is a tendency for homemakers to be ill-advised to present themselves as employed and earning in order to obtain compensation in accident cases.

Ideally, however, the High Court opined that when there is no document to establish employment or income, "it is to be ascertained whether the woman claimant is the Homemaker and in such circumstances, she must be considered as a Homemaker for the purpose of assessing the quantum of compensation."

As such, fixing an income of Rs 4,500 per month towards the homemaker-claimant's income is without any basis, the High Court said. It was undoubtedly inadequate and improper, the Court added.

Explaining that the value of a homemaker outweighs the amount assigned for monthly income by the Tribunal, the High Court said,

"The value and importance of the Homemakers in a family had never been undermined by anybody, including the Courts. Performing the job of the Homemaker is a toughest one and the Homemakers are working without any time limits as they are working with love and affection, which can never be expected from an ordinary employee. Therefore, the job of Homemaker can never be compared with employee or employment and the importance and the values are also to be considered by the Courts, while assessing the compensation. The Homemakers are working from early morning till late night and one can experience the hard work being performed by the Homemakers in the houses."

The Court added that the homemakers duties should be given due weightage in such cases. In cases where the homemaker dies, the "family will become helpless and undoubtedly, the situation would be worsened", the Court observed.

In this backdrop, Justice Subramaniam emphasised that it is up to the adjudicating authorities to be fair in granting compensation and that there should be no bias in assessing the contributions made by homemakers to their families.

The Court, therefore, enhanced the compensation payable to Bhuvaneswari by estimating her monthly income at Rs 9,000 and also by enhancing the compensation payable under the head of pain and suffering.

Directing the insurance company to pay an enhanced compensation of Rs.14,07,000 along with interest at the rate of 7.5% per annum, Justice Subramaniam highlighted further that,

"The family would suffer on account of the permanent disability sustained by the Homemakers. The family is losing her effective contribution to the family. Thus, a pragmatic approach is required to be adopted. However, the Tribunal has not taken these aspects in a right perspective. The Tribunal has adopted a mechanical approach by considering the proof for employment as well as the income. Such an approach in respect of beneficial legislation like Motor Vehicles Act, is improper. The beneficial legislation is to be interpreted keeping in mind the purpose and object sought to be achieved under the Act. Once the fact of accident is established and the Insurance Policy Coverage is not disputed and negligence is decided, then the claimants are entitled for 'Just Compensation."

The appellant in the case was represented by Advocate TS Arthanareeswaran. Advocate C Paranthaman appeared on behalf of the insurance company.

Read the Judgment:

Bhuvaneswari v. Mani and anr - Madras High Court Judgment - September 1.pdf
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