In an unprecedented move, the Madras High Court has recognised the unpaid care work that women do every day in the home. The court was hearing an appeal by the Puducherry electricity board, about compensation they had to pay to the husband of a homemaker named Malathi who died in 2009 from electrocution after coming in contact with a live cable.
In a world where homemaker's work is hardly ever considered 'work', this progressive ruling is a breath of fresh air. Internationally, there is a debate that is still underway on whether women's unpaid care work should be seen as part of the economy, and brought into the GDP of nations,
In this particular case pertaining to Malathi's death, the Madras HC, while hearing the contention of the Puducherry electricity board (EB), has said that the husband's demand of Rs 5 lakh is justified.
The Madras HC on Wednesday took to explaining that the role of a homemaker in Indian society is more than that of just a wife or a mother.
According to reports, Malathi was collecting fodder for cattle when she was electrocuted by live cables that had snapped.
Her husband then approached the court seeking a compensation of Rs 5 lakh and was awarded Rs 4 lakh after considering her monthly income to be Rs 3000 a month.
But the EB filed another appeal saying that Malathi was a homemaker without any income. In addition to this, it reportedly said that there was no negligence on its part.
A division bench of the Madras HC however did not accept the EBâ€™s contention that the judge should not have considered her notional monthly income to be Rs 3000.
â€œShe was a dutiful wife and an affectionate mother of her two children. She was the finance minister of the family. She was the chef. She was the chartered accountant of the family, maintaining the income and expenses. The husband lost the company of his wife. The children lost their mother and her love and affection,â€œ the bench said, according to ToI.
The court said that her death had deprived the husband of her attention and companionship and this must be taken into account to assess the loss of services consequent to her death.
It further dismissed the claim that the board was not responsible for the death. â€œThere is no doubt the common man has no control over the electrical system and the transmission line and as such, in the event of any untoward incident involving the transmission cable, onus is heavy on the electricity department to absolve themselves from the charge of negligence," the bench reportedly said.