New Delhi: The Supreme Court has slammed
the Government for clubbing housewives with prostitutes,
beggars and prisoners in the Census and describing them as
economically non-productive workers.
The court described as "totally insensitive" and
"callous" the approach of the statutory authorities in
equating women, who are homemakers, with such segments, saying
it was indicative of a strong gender bias against women.
The court asked Parliament to revisit the Motor
Vehicle Act to ensure that whenever a housewife dies, suitable
compensation is awarded to the family members, to avoid gender
In separate but concurrent judgements, the Bench also
suggested amendments to the Matrimonial Laws to give the women
their due status in the society.
"This bias 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.
"As a result of such categorization about 36 crores
(367 million) women in India have been classified in the
Census of India, 2001 as non-workers and placed in the
category of beggars, prostitutes and prisoners," the apex
A Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly upheld
the appeal of an aggrieved husband Arun Kumar Aggarwal
challenging the meagre compensation awarded by the Motor
Accidents Tribunal and the Allahabad High Court, for the death
of his wife Renu in a road accident.
Though under the Motor Vehicles Act`s structured
formula, the family was entitled to a compensation of Rs six
lakh, the Tribunal reduced the compensation to just Rs 2.5
lakh on the ground that Renu was only a housewife and hence
the "loss of dependency" did not deserve such a high amount.
The Tribunal passed the order despite the plea of the
husband that his wife was engaged in partime painting and
earning Rs 50,000 per month and the family had suffered
immense loss of emotional support, love and affection of the
The High Court concurred with the Tribunal`s
findings, upon which the husband appealed in the apex court.
Disagreeing with the two courts` view, the Bench
said, "the gratuitous services rendered by wife with true love
and affection to the children and her husband and managing the
household affairs cannot be equated with the services rendered
"A wife/mother does not work by the clock. She is in
constant attendance of the family throughout the day and
night unless she is employed and is required to attend the
employer`s work for particular hours. She takes care of all
the requirements of husband and children including cooking of
food, washing of clothes, etc. She teaches small children and
provides invaluable guidance to them for their future
life," the apex court said.