Taking judicial note of the large number of cases still being registered under the Dowry Prohibition Act, the Bombay High Court Thursday told the state government to put in place a grievance redressal mechanism to address complaints of women against matrimonial websites.
A division bench of Justice A S Oka and Justice A A Sayed was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Priscilla Samuel, which claimed that although the Dowry Prohibition Act was enacted way back in 1961, the state government has done little to control the menace of dowry. The PIL has also urged the court to inquire into the “mushrooming illegal business of marriage brokers and marriage service providers.”
The court was informed that the Union of India were framing guidelines to clamp down on illegal operation of such websites. “Till then, the state government should set up a grievance redressal machinery so that women who have complaints against such websites have a forum to file complaints and action can be initiated against such complaints under criminal law,” said the court.
It further wants the draft guidelines, which are being framed, to be placed before the court on July 8. “Judicial note should be taken about the fact that there a large number of cases are still being registered under the Dowry Prohibition Act. This issue can only be resolved if dowry prohibition officers are appointed in letter and in spirit,” said the court.
The state government had earlier informed the court that creation of such posts would not be possible due to financial constraints.
On Thursday, the state government suggested that it could give existing officers additional charge of dowry prohibition officers. The High Court, however, said that it could only be an interim measure and directed the government to take appropriate steps to appoint one dowry prohibition officer in each district within the next three months.
Stating that this was the duty of the state, the High Court said, “We direct the state to create post of dowry prohibition officers. Independent officers will not be able to discharge this duty. It will be appropriate to have at least one such officer for each district.”
Meanwhile, the court has said, for the time being, the government should give the charge of dowry prohibition to existing officers, preferably those in charge of child development and protection. “In areas where there are more complaints, the state will have to give charge to Class I officer who has experience in working in this field,” said Justice A S Oka.
In terms of appointing advisory boards to curb such cases, Acting Advocate General Rohit Deo said that while such boards would be set-up, the commissioner of women and child development department will act as the nodal agency. The court has granted the state three months to create one such board in each district.