A bill likely to be discussed in the Lok Sabha next month seeks to put a cap on spending at weddings, limiting the number of guests to be invited and even the number of dishes to be served. The idea is to rein in a “show of wealth” and discourage wasteful expenditure. One of the key proposals of the bill is penalising those who indulge in vulgar displays of wealth in weddings and make sure that they engage in a bout of mandatory philanthropy enforced by the State. According to the bill, those spending more than Rs 5 lakh on a wedding have to do their bit for society -- they will have to contribute 10% of the amount on the marriages of girls from poor families.
The Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill, 2016, introduced by MP Ranjeet Ranjan, the wife of don-turned-parliamentarian Pappu Yadav, is likely to be discussed when the Parliament reconvenes next month for the second half of the Budget Session. While introducing it as a private member’s bill, Ranjan has argued that the tendency of spending unrealistic amounts of money beyond their means is growing. Owing to this mentality, even poor and middle-class families are under pressure to spend more on weddings. Although the intent behind such a proposal may be laudable, the modalities of its implementation are far from easy.
Bills presented by members of parliament other than ministers are called private members. If the history of such bills is an indicator — only 14 private members’ bills have been enacted so far since the commencement of Parliament in 1952 — the odds stacked against this bill going on to become a law are not favourable.
Going ahead with the proposal in the House could actually send out a wrong signal. The government cannot take upon itself the role of telling people how much they can spend on weddings or anything else for that matter as long as they are not breaking any law. The state cannot issue diktats on personal preferences, though it seems fond of doing so when it comes to social mores like drinking and other `traditional values’. This is not how our parliamentarians should be spending their valuable time and the taxpayers’ money when there are far more pressing issues to deal with. An over-the-top wedding may be in bad taste, but everyone has the right to spend as much as they want to on such an event and not be coerced into paying for anyone else’s wedding.