Regulation in marriage ceremonies

Regulation in marriage ceremonies

Congress MP Ranjeet Rajan, wife of Bihar MP Pappu Yadav has introduced a bill to control expenditure at wedding ceremonies. The bill called Marriages (Compulsory Registration & Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure), 2017 is likely to be tabled as a private member’s bill, in the next session of Parliament.

Do we need a law to control ostentation? 

Congress MP Ranjeet Rajan, wife of Bihar MP Pappu Yadav has introduced a bill to control expenditure at wedding ceremonies. The bill called Marriages (Compulsory Registration & Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure), 2017 is likely to be tabled as a private member’s bill, in the next session of Parliament.

The bill proposes that wedding expenditure in excess of Rs. 5 Lakhs, should be taxed at a rate of 10%. The tax accruals should be used by governments to support poorer weddings. The bill also proposes to place a limit on guests and the dishes to be served at receptions.

What was the Immediate Provocation?

In Nov 2016, while the nation was reeling under the cash crunch, G Janardhana Reddy celebrated his daughter’s wedding, at the Bangalore Palace. The estimated expenditure was US$ 74 million and included Gold-plated invitation cards fitted with LCD screens. The stark contrast between the extravagant wedding venue and serpentine queues waiting for cash, provided opportunity for people to berate opulence, extravaganza and wasteful expenditure. 

Is there Historical Precedent?

Extravagant weddings, are particularly common in the subcontinent but are provocative to the public. To control wasteful expenditure, there have been several attempts at rule-based control. In 1966, the Assam Guest Control Order limited guests at small functions to 25 and for large functions like weddings and funerals, to 100. In 2011, the National Advisory Council had studied the subject but did not pursue the matter. In 2004, the J&K Government passed an order restricting serving of food at marriage receptions to 250 vegetarians and 200 non-vegetarians. The order was stayed by the High Court of J&K. However in 2016, the Supreme Court of Pakistan up held the ‘One-dish’ Law of Punjab, which restricts the main course and also places curbs on unnecessary decoration, at wedding functions. Media reports suggest the Pakistan Sindh is also considering a similar ‘One-dish’ Law.

Assessment

Do we really need a law to control wasteful expenditure at weddings? If the wedding expenditure is incurred from legitimate sources of income, on which tax has been paid, there is little grounds for complaint. Though some may describe such extravaganzas as vulgar displays of wealth, it may not necessitate legislation. In a democratic society, people are unlikely to appreciate the state mandating how we should spend our legally acquired wealth. Weddings like political campaigning are also opportunities for India’s unorganized sector to earn some money. Where did G Janardhana Reddy’s US$ 74 million expenditure land up? Many cooks, caterers, stewards, waiters, taxis, contractors, hotels and casual labor also benefitted from the largesse. We might find it difficult to admit but many poor people earn a living from such extravaganzas and they are better off this way; than if the money were unused.

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