The Bombay high court on Wednesday sought to know how the state government proposes to regulate the matrimonial websites and marriage bureaus, which are purportedly violating provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.
“We don’t know how the state government can control them, but the state must control the matrimonial websites,” said the division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Prakash Naik, while hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Priscila Samuel.
In her PIL, Samuel has claimed that though the Dowry Prohibition Act was enacted in 1961, the state had done little to control the dowry menace, and urged the court to inquire into the “mushrooming of illegal business of marriage brokers and marriage service providers.”
In her PIL she pointed out advertisements appearing on matrimonial sites seeking dowry, thus, directly violating prohibitory provisions of the Dowry Prohibition Act. She, therefore, sought orders to the state authorities to regulate the functioning of the matrimonial sites.
After she brought to the notice of the court advertisements appearing in matrimonial columns of various newspapers clearly indicating the intent of the parties to seek dowry, the judges directed the state government to first bring to the notice of leading newspapers provisions of section 4A of the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, which prescribes minimum imprisonment of six months for printing, publishing or circulating any such advertisement, and then take steps to prosecute the violators.
The bench also took note of the fact that the regulation of marriage bureaus has been left by the state government to ward officers of municipal corporations and chief officers at municipal council level and since these officers are already overburdened they are not in a position to discharge their duties under the Maharashtra Regulation of Marriage Bureaus and Registration of Marriages Act, 1998.
The court has therefore asked the state government to take this aspect also into consideration and inform the court in a month what it proposes to do in this regard.
As far as appointment of in-charge of police stations as dowry prohibition officers, the judges said under the scheme of the Act, police officers could not have been appointed as dowry prohibition officers and since dowry prohibition officers discharge important functions under the law, immediate steps are required to be taken for designated proper persons as dowry prohibition officers and also for appointment of advisory boards to advise these officers.
The judges felt that if the dowry prohibition officers are appointed at police station and district levels, people will be able to intimate them about possible instances of demanding, giving or taking dowry and action can be accordingly taken.
The court has now posted the PIL for further hearing on April 28.