Supreme Court speaks up for wives, mothers

New Delhi, July 23 (Calcutta Tube) The personal care and attention rendered by a wife and mother to her family is immeasurable, and to compare it to that of a housekeeper or servant is ‘highly unfair, unjust and inappropriate’, the Supreme Court observed while asking for proper compensation to be given to dependents of women killed in road accidents.

In a judgment of far reaching consequences, the Supreme Court has said that it was high time that the Motor Vehicles Act and related laws are amended to give compensation to dependents of women road accident victims.

The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly said in their separate but concurrent judgment that parliament should rethink amending the statutory provisions for providing compensation to a woman victim and a home maker.

Justice Gangly said that amendment in the matrimonial laws may also be made in order to give effect to the mandate of Article 15 (1) of the constitution. The article says that the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

Delivering the judgment Thursday, the court faulted the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Shahjahanpur, for reducing the amount of compensation from actual Rs.6 lakh on the grounds that the deceased was a non-earning member and the amount would be too high.

It also assailed the Allahabad High Court for relying on grounds which are ‘wholly untenable’ for further reducing the amount of compensation.

Justice Singhvi said, ‘In our view, it is highly unfair, unjust and inappropriate to compute the compensation payable to the dependents of the deceased wife/mother, who does not have regular income, by comparing her services with that of a housekeeper or a servant or an employee, who works for a fixed period.

‘The gratuitous services rendered by the wife/mother to the husband and children cannot be equated with the services of an employee and no evidence and data can possibly be produced for estimating the value of such services,’ the court judgment said.

‘It is virtually impossible to measure in terms of money the loss of personal care and attention suffered by the husband and children on the demise of the housewife,’ said Justice Singhvi.

Justice Ganguly while digging holes in the census of 2001 said, ‘The bias (against the homemaker mother/wife) is shockingly prevalent in the work of census.

‘In the census of 2001 it appears that those who are doing household duties like cooking, cleaning of utensils, looking after children, fetching water, collecting firewood have been categorized as non-workers and equated with beggars, prostitutes and prisoners who, according to census, are not engaged in economically productive work,’ pointed out Justice Ganguly.

‘This lack of sensitiveness and recognition of their work mainly contributes to women’s high rate of poverty and consequential oppression in the society, as well as various physical, social and psychological problems.’

He said that the household work performed by the women throughout India is more than $ 612.8 billion per year.

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