Days after Karnataka Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs T B Jayachandra stirred up controversy by suggesting that a luxury tax be imposed on lavish weddings, the Congress-led State government is downplaying the matter. State party sources said the proposal, which could be interpreted as petty interference in people’s lives and adversely affect the party’s image, has been shot down by senior leaders.
Last Thursday, Jayachandra, upon receiving a wedding invite costing Rs 7,000, had announced that the state will consider amending the Karnataka Marriages (Registration and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1976, and impose a tax on weddings costing beyond Rs 5 lakh or with a guest list of over 1,000. A Luxury Marriage Tax Officer would be appointed under the existing provisions to monitor the expenses, he had added. The minister had also proposed that the amount collected as tax would be used to fund marriages of the poor.
Dismissing claims of imposing a luxury tax on weddings, a senior Congress leader said the matter has not been placed before the Cabinet. Following public outcry, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee has reportedly directed leaders not to provoke public sentiments and to streamline their public statements only after verifying with the district or state leadership.
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At the chief minister’s meet on June 5, the government may instead ponder making necessary amendments to make wedding registration compulsory to ensure social security for women and children and strengthening legislation against dowry exploitation that is still prevalent, a Congress leader said.
Weddings are a big business in the state and news of the tax has stakeholders worried. “Wedding parties will not only move to Goa or Kerala, but there will be a tremendous loss of employment to agriculturists looking for off-season employment,” a wedding organiser from Bangalore said.
Organisers also said that with the rise in the cost of food, gold, clothing, transportation, land and labour, even a middle-class family would need to spend at least Rs 10 lakh on a wedding. “Unless the celebration is funded by illegitimate or ill-gotten wealth, why should the government mind?” Mohan P, a local party hall owner, said.