The Bombay High Court recently emphasised on the need to give due recognition to the importance a housewife’s role in the family while estimating the compensation payable in the event of her death in a motor accident case.
Justice Anil S Kilor of the Bombay High Court’s Nagpur Bench made pertinent observations on this aspect while setting aside an order passed by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal, Achalpur.
A claim petition had been filed under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act seeking compensation from the Oriental Insurance Company Ltd. for the death of a woman in an accident. The Tribunal had rejected the claim made by the deceased woman’s family while also citing that the deceased had been engaged in household work. In the appeal filed by the husband of the deceased woman and their two sons through their Advocate PK Agrawal, the Court emphasised,
“When we talk about a ‘family’, the role of a woman as a ‘housewife’ (also known as ‘homemaker’) in family is the most challenging and important role which role though deserves much appreciation but least appreciated.”
Justice Kilor commented, “In fact emotionally she holds the family together. She is a pillar support for her husband, a guiding light for her child/children and harbor for the family’s elderly. She works round-the-clock without a single day off, no matter whether she is working or not. However, the work she does go unacknowledged and is not considered as a ‘job’. It is an impossible task to count the services she renders which are consisting hundreds of component that go into the functioning of a house hold itself, in monetary terms.”
The Court also referred to judgements of the Supreme Court such as Arun Kumar Agrawal and another v. National Insurance Company Limited and others and New India Assurance Company Ltd v. Kamla and others which detailed the pecuniary value, the ambit of the ‘services’ of a housewife and how these services should not be undervalued.
Justice Kilor noted that, “The Hon’ble the Supreme Court says that estimation, should be Rs.3000/- per month and Rs.36,000/- per annum in respect of those housewives between the age group of 34 to 59 and as such who were active in life.”
As such, the High Court rejected the reasoning of the Tribunal remarking that “declining compensation based on the ground that the deceased was housewife is contrary to well-settled law.“
The Court added that the “loss to the husband and children consequent upon the death of the housewife has to be computed by estimating the loss of personal care and attention given by the deceased to her children and husband.“
Justice Kilor went on to find that the deceased wife’s earnings as a daily wage labourer had also not been considered by the Tribunal. Accepting the claimants’ submission that the deceased had been earning Rs 100 a day as a daily wage labourer, and adding this to the Rs 3,000 estimated as her income per month in respect of her role as a housewife, the High Court eventually directed Oriental Insurance to pay Rs. 8,22,000/- along with interest at the rate of 6% per annum as compensation for the woman’s death. This included the amount paid to the claimants under the head of no fault liability.
Advocate SK Pardhy, appearing for Oriental Insurance objected to the payment of compensation citing breach of a condition in the insurance policy. He argued that the driver of the vehicle involved in the accident did not hold a valid license and was using the vehicle for a commercial purpose although it was a private vehicle.
Justice Kilor rejected this argument and ordered the Insurance Company to deposit the calculated compensation amount within 3 months. The Court, however, granted the company to recover the amount from the owner of the vehicle. The driver (deceased) and his legal heirs were represented by Advocate KB Zinjarde.