The role of a housewife in the family is most important and challenging, but least appreciated, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court (HC) observed last week reiterating that family members are entitled to compensation on account of death of a homemaker.
Justice Anil Kilor said a housewife holds a family together, as a pillar of support for her husband, a guiding force for her children and a caretaker for senior citizens in a household.
The judge added that a homemaker works round-the-clock, without a day off, but her work goes unacknowledged and is not considered as an occupation because it doesn't fetch a monthly income.
The court made the observation following an appeal filed by Rambhau Gavai, a resident of Amravati in Maharashtra, and his two sons. They moved HC to challenge a previous order of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal at Achalpur in Amravati district.
The tribunal had issued an order on February 3, 2007, which had rejected the claim for compensation on account of the death of Gavai's wife, Babybai, in a road accident.
The accident had occurred in March 2005 when Babybai's vehicle had rammed into a tree at a high speed. Babybai had succumbed to her severe injuries.
The tribunal had dismissed the claim of her husband and the sons primarily on the ground that the deceased was a housewife and not an earning member of the family.
However, the HC reversed the tribunal's order, as it was contrary to settled legal principles.
Justice Kilor said it is impossible to count the services rendered by a homemaker and her contributions to the family in monetary terms.
The judge referred to a 2001 judgment of the Supreme Court (SC), which had clearly laid down, the loss to husband and children following the death of a housewife or mother has to be computed by estimating the loss of personal care and attention given by the deceased.
The judge also cited the loss of gratuitous and the multifarious services rendered by a housewife for managing a family.
HC fixed the income of Babybai at Rs 3,000 as a housewife and an additional Rs 3,000 for doubling up as a labourer, and held that her husband and sons were entitled to Rs 8.22 lakh towards compensation for her accidental death.
HC held that since the driver of the vehicle was holding a valid driving licence at the time of the accident, the car's insurer was not liable to pay any compensation.
However, the court directed the insurance company to pay the compensation to the father and the two sons within three months and granted it liberty to recover the amount from the vehicle's owner.