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On Tuesday, the Top Court has made an important observation that can go a long way in terms of promoting Gender Equality in the country.
While taking up an Insurance Dispute, the Supreme Court said that the calculation of the Notional Income of Homemakers must be based on their work, labor, and sacrifices.
The bench comprising of Justice NV Ramana, Justice S Abdul Nazeer, and Justice Surya Kant further noted that the observations is in “furtherance of our Nation’s International Law obligations and our Constitutional Vision of Social Equality and ensuring dignity to all,”
The Court was dealing with a case in which one couple died in an accident in 2014. The husband worked as a Teacher while the wife was a Homemaker. At this particular instance in the case, the Court was deciding the Compensation for the three surviving dependents (who are two minor daughters and the father of the deceased).
The Court while assessing the Monthly Income of the deceased woman (a homemaker) took note of its role and said:
“Any compensation awarded by a court ought to be just, reasonable and consequently must undoubtedly be guided by principles of fairness, equity, and good conscience.”
Justice Ramana in the judgment went into detail on how the Notional Income of any person is determined. While deciding it for the Homemakers in India, he highlighted the data published by the National Statistical Office of the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation, Government of India based on a survey which disclosed that:
“On average, women spend nearly 299 minutes a day on unpaid domestic services for household members versus 97 minutes spent by men on average. Similarly, in a day, women on average spend 134 minutes on unpaid care giving services for household members as compared to the 76 minutes spent by men on average. The total time spent on these activities per day makes the picture in India even more clear women on average spend 16.9 and 2.6 percent of their day on unpaid domestic services and unpaid care giving services for household members respectively, while men spent 1.7 and 0.8 percent”
Stating that the phenomenon prevails worldwide while highlighting a report by the French Government on ‘Gender Equality and Analysis’, Justice Ramana noted:
“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,”
He further added:
“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 labor, services, and sacrifices of homemakers.”
He also stated that all the methods to decide Notional Income are “merely suggestions.” He said, there can’t 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 to grant monetary compensation.”, he added.
The bench comprising of Justice NV Ramana, Justice S Abdul Nazeer, and Justice Surya Kant heard the matter. Judgment was written by Honourable Justice NV Ramana on 05-01-2021.