The Delhi High Court has directed the Centre to give copy of the original blocking order as well as a post decisional hearing to Tanul Thakur, owner and creator of the website 'Dowry Calculator' which was blocked by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) in September 2018.
A division bench comprising of Justice Manmohan and Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma directed the Committee constituted by MeitY under the Blocking Rules, 2009 to give a post-decisional hearing to the counsel for Thakur on 23rd May, 2022 at 3 pm.
"A copy of the original blocking order, after redacting the portion pertaining to the third parties, shall be furnished to the petitioner before 23rd May, 2022. The Committee under the Blocking Rules, 2009 shall furnish a report to this Court as well as to the petitioner within four weeks thereafter," the Court ordered further.
The matter will now be heard on September 14.
The development ensued in a plea filed by Thakur seeking quashing of the orders issued by the Centre under sec. 69A of Information Technology Act blocking the website in question.
It also seeks directions on the MeitY to immediately restore access to the website on all internet service providers.
It is the case of the petitioner that the website is a satirical website which seeks to critique the practices of arranging marriages across India where often marriage is spoken of as a "market", "operating to the forces of supply and demand where, despite powerful criminal legislation having been in place for over three decades, the act of exchanging dowry retains an important place in the social milieu."
"The Petitioner's approach was targeted at the educated middle-class, and his innovative take on this long standing social problem resonated with lakhs of people as was evident with the website gaining thousands of views within days of launch. The website was also covered by Indian and foreign news media, and the Petitioner's efforts at raising awareness and stimulating discussion about the problems around marriage for the Indian youth were by and large warmly appreciated," the plea reads.
The plea also seeks to challenge Rule 16 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 as unconstitutional insofar as it extends to persons directly aggrieved from any orders passed under Section 69A being owners, creators, developers and curators of the blocked content.
Additionally, the plea also seeks to frame guidelines to ensure that all deliberations and decisions towards exercising powers under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act 2000 are in consonance with the Rules of 2009 so as to ensure that the right to freedom of speech and expression is not unreasonably restrained by the Respondents.
The plea makes MeitY, Ministry of Women and Child Development and Ministry of Communications as the party respondents.
Advocates Vrinda Bhandari along with Advocates Abhinav Sekhri, Tanmay Singh, Anandita Mishra, Krishnesh Bapat, Amala Dasrathi and Natasha Maheshwari appeared for the petitioner.
Case Title: Tanul Thakur v. UOI & Ors.