From the Viewsroom

Big wedding, bigger government

Venky Vembu | Updated on July 18, 2019 Published on July 18, 2019

Delhi move to regulate wedding venues is a double-edged sword

On the face of it, there is nothing exceptionable about the Delhi government’s move to frame regulations in respect of “social functions”, including weddings, at farmhouses and motels in ‘low-density residential areas’ in Outer Delhi. The draft proposals were framed in response to a nudge from the Supreme Court, which had in December 2018 expressed concern over wastage of food and water at such venues. The AAP government’s proposals go a step further and place limits on the maximum number of guests, depending on the parking space available at the venue. This is evidently motivated by a compulsion to ease traffic congestion near such venues. A few other proposals relate to securing proper electricity connections, and permits from the Fire Department. Venues should also have mini-sewage treatment plants, and the caterers or venue managers must tie up with NGOs to ensure that leftover food is distributed to underprivileged sections.

The initial outraged response, in the mistaken belief that the regulations would apply to all weddings, events and venues in Delhi — and, to that extent, were seen as an intrusion on private domains — was decidedly over the top. Likewise, the argument that the government must not regulate private venues and events is misplaced. Most advanced societies place reasonable restrictions on venues with large gatherings so as to ensure safety, orderly crowd control, and ease of traffic flows. For too long, a lawless “anything goes” spirit has overrun Indian cities to the point where even traffic rules are unimplementable. Clearly, something needed to be done.

However, concerns do arise because governments in India — at the Central and State levels — are given to excessive overreach and intrusions into people’s lives. There is a risk of governments yielding to populist urges and enforcing austerity by diktat. Additionally, if the spirit of the regulations gives way to mindless enforcement of rules, it will open the door to bureaucratic corruption, as happened under the Guest Control Order regime during the Emergency. Even the most well-minded regulation would then be seen as an accursed intrusion.

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Published on July 18, 2019
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