23 Jan 2023 12:40 PM GMT
The Delhi High Court on Monday sought union government's response on a plea moved by journalist Tanul Thakur against blocking of his website “Dowry Calculator”, a satire on India’s dowry system. Justice Prathiba M Singh issued notice on the plea which challenged a communication dated June 20, 2022 and an inter-ministerial committee's report which said that the website ought to...
The Delhi High Court on Monday sought union government's response on a plea moved by journalist Tanul Thakur against blocking of his website “Dowry Calculator”, a satire on India’s dowry system.
Justice Prathiba M Singh issued notice on the plea which challenged a communication dated June 20, 2022 and an inter-ministerial committee's report which said that the website ought to continue remain blocked.
The website was started in May 2011. It was originally blocked in July 2018. It is Thakur’s case that he started the website with the intention of highlighting the social evil of dowry.
The court has listed the matter for hearing on May 16.
According to Thakur, the website is a “tongue in cheek attempt” to highlight the social evil of dowry that is prevalent in the country.
The court in the order noted that though Thakur was initially reluctant to put a disclaimer, he later conceded that he will be willing to put a disclaimer regarding the website. However, the committee came to the conclusion that even the disclaimer may not help in addressing the issue.
Senior Advocate Siddharth Aggarwal appearing for Thakur submitted that blocking of a website that highlighted a social evil, in the manner as done by Thakur, is contrary to Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
“This is [like] a stand up comic or anybody else ... which makes fun of a social evil to try and get people not to follow it. The difficulty is that when we start taking everything so literally, that the ministry says that 'no, this will defame India in the eyes of the world',” he said.
Aggarwal apprised the court that the website was blocked without any notice given to Thakur and that the post decisional hearing was given to him only after an order was passed by the court last year.
As Aggarwal said that it is a free website without any advertisement and that Thakur does not earn even a single penny out of it, Justice Singh orally said: “It's quite creative, though.”
Aggarwal contended that all that the website does is that “it shines a mirror on all of ourselves” and it is “self evident” that it is a satire.
“If people do not have the ability to exercise their mind and somebody is actually going to go to a dowry website to find out how much dowry I deserve, the less said the better,” he said.
As the court questioned him about the details required to be filled by the users while calculating dowry in the website, Aggarwal submitted that it includes salary of a person and color of the skin, amongst other details.
“The fact is, of course I think it is…I mean even if you call it satire, this is kind of promoting a social evil. Children must be using all this,” the court remarked.
Responding to this, Aggarwal said: “I don't think children are sitting to find out what their dowry calculation is. I ask myself at the end of the day, what is it that a disclaimer will not do?”
As the counsel appearing for Centre sought some time to seek instructions in the matter, Justice Singh told Aggarwal:
“What you're saying is that the wisdom of the user cannot be taken away….We have to consider this. Let me issue notice.”
Title: Tanul Thakur v. Union of India