Homemakers Are Equal To Earning Household Members: What Is The SC Domestic Worker Compensation Case?

The bench comprising Justices Suryan Kant and KV Viswanathan, described the work of a homemaker as invaluable and said their contributions could not be quantified in monetary terms.


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The Supreme Court, on Friday, stated the role of a homemaker to be as important as that of an earning member, and increased the compensation for a deceased homemaker in a motor accident claims case.

The bench comprising Justices Suryan Kant and KV Viswanathan, described the work of a homemaker as invaluable. They stated that the worth of a woman managing the household was of a “high order” and her contributions could not be quantified in monetary terms.

What Was The Case?

The court was addressing a motor accident lawsuit related to the death of a woman from Uttarakhand in a 2006 road accident. Since the vehicle she was in was uninsured, the responsibility to compensate her family fell on the vehicle owner.


The family of the woman, including her spouse and young child, was initially awarded a total compensation of Rs 2.5 lakh by the motor accident claims tribunal. In 2017, they appealed to the Uttarakhand High Court for an increased compensation but their plea was rejected.

The High Court upheld the tribunal's decision to consider the woman's hypothetical income as lower than that of a daily wage worker. In its order, the High Court noted that she was a “homemaker” and, therefore, the compensation was determined based on her life expectancy and a minimum notional income income.

What Is Minimum Notional Income?

Minimum notional income refers to the lowest estimated or assumed income that an individual is deemed to have earned, even if they did not actually earn it.


In the context of a homemaker's compensation, minimum notional income is often used to assign a value to a woman's household contributions.

A 2021 BBC report looked at a study done by Prabha Kotiswaran, a law and justice professor at King's College London which examined around 200 cases filed between 1968 and 2021 under an Indian law that governs road transport vehicles and imposes penalties for reckless driving, among other things.

She found that the courts in the country had created a new legal approach regarding compensation for household work. Judges had determined a value for the unpaid work done by women who had passed away in road accidents, in order to fix a compensation amount.

“The Supreme Court has awarded lump sum amounts up to 9,000 rupees a month as a notional income for a deceased housewife aged between 34-59 years with a lower amount for elderly women, aged between 62-72. Compensation decreased with age as courts believed she would be doing less childcare work as children grew up,” the report stated.

The study also found a case where the concept of "equal economic partnership" was used. “In one judgement, the judges viewed marriage as an ‘equal economic partnership’ so that the homemaker's salary would be half of the husband's salary,” the BBC report stated.


What Was The Supreme Court’s Decision

On Friday, the Supreme Court criticised the High Court's decision and condemned it for taking an old-fashioned approach, the court said “how can a homemaker’s income be treated as less than that of a daily wager? We don’t accept such an approach."

The Supreme Court enhanced the compensation of the deceased woman to Rs 6 lakh and in their order stated, “The role of a homemaker is as important as that of a family member whose income is tangible. If the activities performed by a homemaker are computed one by one, there cannot be any doubt that the contribution is of a high order and is invaluable. In fact, it is difficult to compute her contributions only in monetary terms."


“One should never underestimate the value of a homemaker,” the bench added.