Jammu & Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik is reported to have criticized Mukesh Ambani for spending lavishly on his daughter’s wedding. Debate over extravagance & unlimited expenditure in marriages was rekindled after this wedding. As per available information on the parliament website, in the last 30 years, ten (10) different private member bills have been introduced in the Parliament that seek to prohibit extravagant expenditure. None of them have been successful (passed by Parliament).
The latest such bill was introduced in 2017 in the Lok Sabha by Gopal Chinayya Shetty of the BJP, a MP from Maharashtra. He introduced ‘The Prevention of Extravagance and Unlimited Expenditure on Marriages Bill, 2017‘, that seeks to put an upper limit on the expenditure that can be incurred during a marriage. On the other hand, Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan introduced ‘The Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill, 2016′ that seeks to prohibit extravagant and wasteful expenditure on marriages and to enforce simpler solemnization. In fact, the bill by Ranjeet Ranjan is an exact replica of the bill introduced by Akhilesh Das Gupta in the Rajya Sabha in 2011.
History of these Bills
A total of ten (10) such bills were introduced in the Parliament in the last 30 years. Five of these bills were introduced in the Lok Sabha and the remaining five in the Rajya Sabha. All of these bills except three have lapsed. The three are still shown as pending on the Lok Sabha website.
Why these bills in the first place?
The text of five (5) of these bills is available on the Parliament website. All of these bills talk about the growing extravagance in marriages and how it has become an ugly display of wealth by the rich. Some of the things mentioned in the ‘Statement of Object & Reasons’ of these bills are the following.
- Lakhs of rupees are spent on shamianas and decorations followed by sumptuous feasts. In addition to all these things, substantial cash and costly gifts are exchanged.
- People use these occasions to spend their black money.
- Parents sometimes try to extract as much money as possible through the marriage of their sons.
- Even the invitation cards, which used to be very simple and meaningful, have now become a means of the status symbol, with each party trying to outdo the just concluded marriage ceremony in the area.
- People have also started the practice of distributing costly gifts and sweets to the Guests attending marriages and receptions and even while giving invitation cards.
- The impact of such growing extravagance in marriages is telling upon the lower-middle and lower class people, who try to match the unabashed and pompous rich marriages, often with borrowed money or by selling their hard-earned assets, and later find themselves in severe debt trap.
- Such uncontrolled expenditure on marriages break the very fabric of our society and institutionalizes the practice of dowry and wasteful expenditure.
- Media gives wide publicity in page three to such lavish marriages.
- There is wastage of food items on a large scale. In one marriage tones of foods is wasted which could fill the bellies of many poor people.
Akhilesh Das Gupta who introduced one of these bills in the Rajya Sabha also mentioned that in Pakistan, one can serve only four dishes to the guests and wastage of dishes is treated as criminal wastage in marriages.
What do these bills propose?
The text of the bill is available only for five (5) of these bills. Three of these bills do not suggest any explicit limits on the marriage expenditure. Instead, they propose that the government fix the limit on the number of guests and relatives who may be invited to attend the marriage or reception. According to these bills, the government should also fix the limit on expenditure that can be incurred on a marriage.
Limits on Expenditure proposed
The bill introduced by Akhilesh Das Gupta in the Parliament does prescribe an upper limit on the expenditure in the bill itself. The bill prescribes an upper limit of 25% of the family’s annual income or Rs. 5 lakhs whichever is lower. The bill also proposes that whosoever wishes to spend more than Rs. 5 lakh shall contribute 10% of such amount to a government welfare fund that would be used to assist BPL families for the marriage of their daughters. The bill introduced by Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan in 2016 is an exact replica of the bill introduced by Akhilesh Das Gupta in 2011.
This bill also proposes that the government fix the limit on the number of guests and number of dishes that could be served during the ceremony.
Guilty to be punished
This bill also proposes that the guilty be punished with a simple imprisonment for a term that can extend up to 3 years and also with a fine that can extend up to Rs. 5 lakhs.
Since private members bills are rarely successful, these ten bills also met the same fate. Except for rekindling a debate, these bills may not help in any other way.
PS: Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, currently MP from the TDP who introduced one of these bills in the Lok Sabha in 2005, celebrated his 50th Marriage anniversary in a grand fashion in 2016. The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh was also on the guest list.
Published with the permission from Factly