CHENNAI: Stay-at-home partners or parents seldom get the recognition and respect they deserve in our career-driven society. The Madras High Court has made an attempt to change that social perspective by stating that homemakers are to be put on a “higher pedestal” than the earning members of a family. Observing that the loss of a homemaker would be immeasurable on family, the court enhanced the accident compensation awarded to a Salem resident from Rs 8.4 lakh to Rs 14 lakh.
The award was given on a petition filed by 39-year-old Bhuvaneshwari. She had challenged the compensation awarded to her by a motor accidents claims tribunal. Bhuvaneshwari met with an accident in 2017, when a rashly-driven private bus hit her on Valasaiyur main road. She suffered 60 per cent permanent disability due to spinal injuries. She also lost the front portion of her tongue. When the matter came up in the tribunal, it fixed a monthly income of Rs 4,500 for her and awarded a compensation of Rs 8.46 lakh.
Dejected, Bhuvaneshwari moved the High Court. Justice SM Subramaniam, who heard the case, noted that the compensation awarded was inadequate. “Performing the job of a homemaker is the toughest challenge. They work without any time limits, and with love and affection that can never be expected from an ordinary employee,” the judge observed, adding that the tribunal was unfair in assessing the contributions of a homemaker. If an earning member dies, there will be an impact for sure.
But if a homemaker dies, that impact is much higher, said the court. “The family will become scattered. It would become very difficult to cope up. Therefore, they are standing on a higher pedestal than an earning member of the family. Thus, a pragmatic approach is required to be adopted.” The judge added that homemakers also contribute to this nation’s development.
‘They contribute towards nation’s development too’
"They are the source of happiness in a family. Happy families constitute a better society, and better societies lead the nation vibrantly. Thus, the Homemakers are not only contributing to their family, but also to the development of our Great Nation," said the order. The High Court then enhanced her monthly income to Rs 9,000 and fixed the total compensation at Rs 14.07 lakh. The insurance firm has been directed to pay up the money within 12 weeks.
Speaking to TNIE, senior advocate Geetha Ramaseshan calls this an important judgment. "Justice (retd) Prabha Sridevan had delivered a similar judgement before," she says. The judgement had stated that the economic value of the unpaid domestic work of women should be taken into account under the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) treaty which India ratified in July 1993.
"Homemakers and their contribution in the family continue to be undermined even today," says High Court lawyer N Lalitha. "Women struggle to gain respect even if they are working. They are assigned roles that they will have to fulfil by virtue of their gender. How many times have we come across women in suburban trains chopping vegetables or doing their children's hair. This is 24x7 work that they don't get any recognition for. That the court recognised it, is a welcome move," says Lalitha. (With inputs from Nirupama Viswanathan)