Dowry calculator: HC seeks govt view on pleas against the site's blocking

Topics dowry

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought the Centre's response on a plea challenging blocking of a website hosting a "dowry calculator", which according to its owner was created as a satirical comment on the existing dowry demand in society.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar issued a notice to the Ministries of Electronics and Information Technology, Women and Child Development and Communication, seeking their stand on the website owner's petition, which claimed the site was blocked by government in Sep last year without giving him a hearing.

The petitioner has sought quashing of the action and directions to restore access to it.

Tanul Thakur has said his site dowry calculator was launched in 2011 "as a satirical comment on the existing state of dowry demand in India".

The petition has claimed the website was designed as an online form that visitors could fill up with options from drop-down menus, on social, educational and personal characteristics of a groom, to arrive at a "fictional dowry amount" that he could attract.

It has further claimed that the choices in drop down menus "were meant to parody societal mores across India for marital desirability, such as an emphasis on fair skin colour".

"Upon submitting the form, the site offered one of nine pre-designed fictional dowry amounts, coupled with a satirical message that ridiculed emphasis on dowry in society and how it could cause extreme financial hardship upon bride's family," the petition has said.

Thakur has contended his site functioned without any hitch from May 2011 to May 2018, when a prominent politician expressed discontent with his website on social media platforms and called on the then WCD minister to take action.

Subsequently, the WCD minister wrote to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) to ban the website and in Sep 2018, access to the site was blocked by all internet service providers.

The petitioner has claimed that through an application under Right to Information Act he came to know why his site was blocked as no notice was issued to him and even the order to block the website was not communicated to him.

Thakur has termed the action taken by the government "arbitrary, excessive and unconstitutional" and claimed it "unreasonably restricts his right to freedom of speech and expression and the public's right to know".

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