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This article has been written by Srusthi Kamble, pursuing the Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation, and Dispute Resolution from LawSikho.This article has been edited by Anahita Arya (Senior Associate, LawSikho) and Dipshi Swara (Senior Associate, LawSikho).

Introduction

India is a country where marriage is deemed essential for all individuals.“Marriage” which is treated as a sacrament in some religions (Hindu, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhist, etc) while contract in some other (Muslims), has undergone many changes over the years, right from changes in aims/purpose of marriage, rules of endogamy and exogamy (fewer restrictions in cross-cousin marriages), changes instability of marriage, same-sex marriages (which is still not legalized in India), but a petition for same has been filed in Kerala High Court, paving way for the Marriage Project in India. 

The current pandemic situation has brought the entire world to halt, businesses all over the world are facing huge losses, except for the Matrimonial Websites; they along with other supplementary services including venue- hire, catering, decoration, and photography are worth 54 billion dollars per year and is increasing with every passing day. Globalisation and connectivity along with the ongoing trend of backing and bolstering connections to 4th generation mobile networks have indirectly resulted in a surge in matrimonial profiles of individuals. The aim of this article is to define the terms of service agreement of such matrimonial websites along with the ongoing pandemic scenario.

What is a service agreement?

A service agreement is an agreement between persons i.e., the service provider (one who will provide the services, in this case, the Matrimonial Website named “Solelyyours.com”) and the customer (one who will receive the services, in this case, the individuals registering on the matrimonial website) explaining about the services, exemptions, inclusions, etc, which is mutually agreed and signed by both the parties, for utilising the said services. The purpose of the service agreement is to define the exact role and liabilities of parties, their scope, functions, confidentiality, termination, content rights, etc. To maintain the transparency, goodwill, and reputation of both parties and refrain from engaging in unnecessary disputes, it is always advisable to carefully read the term services agreement before signing any services.   

In absence of such an agreement, the parties would not have proper guidance to carry out their functions. The parties can take undue advantage of the other and can make the other party liable for any/all acts done even in good faith. 

Important clauses in a service agreement entered with a matrimonial website

Keeping in mind the constantly changing dynamics of marriage and the current surge in usage of matrimonial websites, the following clauses are used in the matrimonial website’s term services agreement, some of such clauses are discussed in brief below. 

Eligibility

Any individual having the following requisites is eligible to apply for membership of “Solelyyours.com”.

  1. Indian nationals-citizen of India,
  2. Person of Indian origin- Documents stating the same must be produced by such a person,
  3. Non-resident Indian (NRI)- Documents stating the same must be produced by such a person,
  4. Person of Indian descent or Indian Heritage,
  5. Person intending to marry someone of Indian origin.

Along with the above criteria, every individual should further confirm that: 

a. Valid age of marriage in India-18 for women and 21 for men.

b. If applied for divorce, you may register and mention “Awaiting Divorce” along with the duration for such procedure. 

c. Individuals belonging to another country, origin shall mention that he/she is legally competent to marry as per local rules, shall comply with Indian laws for marrying a person of Indian origin.

Roles and responsibilities of matrimonial website (Solelyyours.com)

  1. Solelyyours.com entirely functions on the data filled in by you (registered member) registered basic information, choice of partner preference and generate result in accordance with the provided data. In event of any changes by Solelyyours.com registered member’s partner preference or data entered by such registered member on website/app, the automated system generated results of website/app may change accordingly. 
  2. Solelyyours.com shall not be responsible for any transmission of required data or information to its other community website owned by Solelyyours.Ltd on request of the registered members, if any community is not adequately represented on Solelyyours.com website/app. 
  3. Solelyyours.com does not prohibit any registered member from sending “Match Requests” to any other registered member based on your partner preference. The registered members are at liberty to accept or deny such requests as per their choice. 
  4. Solelyyours.com website/app and other community websites owned by Solelyyours.Ltd, merely provides a platform and generated result based on registered members interest preferences, the registered members are solely responsible to interact/meet the match requests. 
  5. Solelyyours.com website/app shall safeguard sensitive personal information as defined by the Official Gazette, by using adequate security standards, authentication mechanism, access control and end to end encryption techniques. 
  6. Solelyyours.com does not guarantee the complete protection of user data while transmission from, or, any kind of data tampering, by the third party before such data reaches Solelyyours.com website/app. 
  7. On account of any kind of misconduct by any registered member, Solelyyours.com has the absolute right to delete any such registered member on its sole discretion.

Roles and responsibilities of registered members

  1. The registered members must provide true, authentic, and verified credentials of themselves during registration. Solelyyours.com. shall not be liable for any misrepresentation made by any registered members. 
  2. The registered members are expected to verify, check, confirm, true, authentic, and verified credentials before accepting any “Match Request”. Solelyyours.com shall not be liable for any misrepresentation made by any registered member. 

For example:  

In the year 2014, a Mumbai-based woman met a man named Michael Williams who claimed to be based in the United Kingdom on a matrimonial website. After some weeks of courtship, Williams had swept her off her feet. In late July of that year, he informed her that he would be visiting India but upon his arrival, he informed her that he had been detained by the customs department for carrying excessive foreign currency and would require an ‘anti-terrorist certificate’ in order to be allowed in the country. He asked her for some money – the customs department required Indian currency – and she obliged. However, after receiving her assistance she did not hear from him again. Williams had duped her out of 2.93 lakhs.

Upon contacting the said matrimonial website, the portal informed her that they had suspended Williams’ profile and the responsibility of verifying his claims lay with her. After a protracted legal case, the  Bombay High Court ruled that the portal was not liable for fraud. There have been several similar instances that can be read here.

  1. The registered members are advised to refrain from: 

a.Sharing confidential personal information including but not limited to bank details, property details, etc. 

b. Usage of abusive, discriminating language based on gender, race, caste, colour, etc. 

c. Entering into or asking for any kind of help in relation to financial transactions. 

Account security

a. The registered members are solely responsible for safeguarding their account through Solelyyours.com login credentials, password, OTP (one-time-password), etc, and for restricting the use of your account via computer/mobile, to be cautious about any unauthorized access on the account of registered members member. 

b. The registered members are advised not to share their login credentials with anyone, we as a company do not ask for the same for same. 

Regulation of matrimonial websites

To deal with such incidents as mentioned above, the Government of India in November 2015 has decided to set up a panel that would make recommendations for the regulation of matrimonial websites in order to check abuse. The initiative is an undertaking of the Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry. The panel consists of members from the WCD ministry, Home ministry and Department of Electronics and Information Technology along with representatives from matrimonial websites such as Shaadi.com and Jeevansathi.com. Ministry officials pointed out that the growing number of cases of fraud and abuse occurring on such websites was the prevailing reason for the formation of the panel. In June 2016, the panel made its recommendations. It is now mandatory for websites to keep track of the IP addresses of their users. Documentation from users would now also be solicited to verify their identity and curb instances of fraud. Matrimonial websites are also required to explicitly spell out that they are for matrimony and not for dating. 

Conclusion

The pandemic has shut the outside world but has virtually opened several opportunities, every business has shifted its focus to e-commerce, matrimonial sites are not any exception to this, in fact, it is the most booming sector. With several people registering themselves online hoping to find a life partner, these are some of the most important clauses which any individual must go through to protect and acknowledge one’s liability and act in accordance with the clauses for the proper usage of such services.  


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