Homemakers Are Entitled To Equal Share In Husband's Assets: Madras HC

The Madras high court held that women homemakers are entitled to an equal share of property purchased by husbands, adding that a homemaker's job is of 24 hours without holidays, which cannot be less equated with that of an earning husband

Snehal Mutha
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Society assumes it is the women's job to take care of the house, and their caregiving duties hold no value in economic terms. Women's contribution to managing a family is never acknowledged and presumed that they have no rights on the family properties as well. However, for the first time, a Court recognised domestic chores managed by a woman as an indirect contribution to the acquisition of family assets and hence declaring them as equal partners in the family assets even if purchased by the husband. 

In the verdict of the Kannaian Naidu case, the Madras High Court observed that a wife is entitled to an equal share in the properties. She indirectly through her role as a homemaker contributes to the financial well-being of the family. The couple married in 1965, and the husband filed an injunction suit in 2002, claiming that his wife took control of the properties that he purchased while working abroad.

At the same time, the wife claimed her rights on the property as well. She argued that while his husband was making money abroad, she was looking after the family and gave up her employment opportunities. She also claimed to sell ancestral properties to sponsor the husband’s foreign trip. Also, supported her family by making tailoring and tuition as additional income sources. Post-death of Kannan Naidu, his children filed a second appeal as his legal heirs and wife also filed the cross objection. 

Madras HC On Women Property Rights 

In the case as per the Live Law report, Justice Krishnan Ramasamy said, "The contribution which wives make towards the acquisition of the family assets by performing their domestic chores, thereby releasing their husbands for gainful employment, would be a factor which, this Court would specifically take into account while deciding the right in the properties either the title stand in the name of the husband or wife and certainly, the spouse who looks after the home and cares for the family for decades, entitled to a share in the property."

According to Justice Ramasamy, a homemaker's job is not an 8-hour shift, it is 24 hours job with no holidays. The homemaker being on her toes automatically gives her partner space and time to focus on the monetary gains for the family. However, society has failed to recognise homemakers' efforts just because their work activities are not calculated in monetary terms.

Most housewives do unpaid labour for years together. This judgement of the Court not only recognises the contribution of a wife but also validates the long debates around unpaid labour. 


Indian women spend up to 352 minutes per day on domestic work, 577% more than men (52 minutes), as per a report by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It means women spend their major time in unpaid caregiving activities. The question is how will they be able to explore monetarily paid activities if stuck in caregiving? Many women quit their jobs, and careers to take care of their families. When a woman doesn't have an income source, and most of her time and energy is devoted to the family, then how will she have the resources to make a property or invest in assets? 

Time is money, and a woman is contributing her time, efforts, and sacrifices to the husband's acquisition of the family assets. She keeps running the wheels of the family. In Naidu's case, the wife used her time managing the household chores by looking after the children, cooking, cleaning, and other affairs of the family without causing any inconvenience to the husband. She saved him from taking the burden of household duties. The Court also observed, "Since it is her performance of her function which enables the husband to perform his, she is in justice, entitled to share in its fruits." So in the end, when she made no property herself and sacrificed all her time for family and children, what is she left with? With no economic stability?  

A 24-hour service without leaves is a saving on many overheads. The Court added, "Property may be purchased either in the name of husband or wife alone, but it is purchased with the monies saved by their joint efforts." Thus, the court's assertion of 'wives are entitled to a share in the property' even if it is purchased by the husbands is a valid point. 

This is not the first time Madras HC noted the value of the homemaker’s contribution and property rights of wives' share in the family property. Earlier in 2020, Court quoted the homemaker’s efforts are irreplaceable and cannot be compared to that of an “ordinary employee”.  

Justice Krishnan Ramasamy also marked that legislation at present does not recognise the contribution made by the wife, but the law does not prevent a Judge from recognising the contributions either. According to him, the acquisition of assets is made by joint contribution (directly or indirectly). Both the spouses responsible for the family's welfare are entitled to an equal share. 

We need more judgements like Naidu's case. In this case, the High Court may have reversed the judgement in the case, but lower courts were of the opinion that the properties were purchased using the husband's funds, so he is the real owner of the properties. Hence, they ignored and neglected women's efforts and years of sacrifice. Can we have the same sensitivity and understanding in the lower courts as HC had in this case? Can we help more women by giving them economic stability through such decisions? Can we not let go unpaid labour of women in vain? 

Suggested Reading: SC Directs Madras HC To Look Into Lack Of Toilet Facilities For Women Lawyers

Madras HC Women Property rights