By: KHALID HASNAIN
LAHORE: The raids on various wedding-related functions being held inside houses under Section 144 imposed to enforce the Punjab Marriage Function (prohibition of ostentatious displays and wasteful expenses) Act 2006 are not only a blatant violation of the Lahore High Court’s orders but also of privacy of people.
The LHC while deciding a writ petition in April 2012, had observed the government functionaries were not empowered to raid a private place for alleged infringement of the Act.
The court had also remarked that the law was not applicable if the marriage functions were held inside houses. It had also ordered registration of a case against the Iqbal Town’s town municipal officer (TMO) and some officials of the Sabzazar police station for raiding a pre-wedding function in a house.
The debate over the issue was reignited after some officials raided a marriage function at the residence of cricketer Wahab Riaz a couple of days ago, registering a case against the national sportsman. The civil society has termed the action not only a mockery of law but also harassment to the citizens, while the officials consider it an issue of interpreting certain sections of the law that require more clarity.
“It is like poking fun at the public and causing harassment. The imposition of Section 144, under which the officials are empowered to enter a house to stop a marriage-related activity under the Act, shows that the rulers have become pharos who don’t care about anything,” eminent painter and civil society activist Ajaz Anwar told Dawn.
He said such raids not only hurt the feelings of the families concerned and spoil their happiness but it was also against tradition and cultural norms of our society. The authorities concerned should understand sensitivities of such issues before taking a decision so that feelings of the families making celebrations were not hurt, he added. He said the people must sensitise the government on the issue by moving courts. And, the civil society too should hold protests against the government for infringing upon civil liberties over trifles, Mr Anwar added.
Talking to Dawn, Lahore District Coordination Officer Dr Ahmad Javaid Qazi said the city district or provincial government did not intend to spoil happiness of the people.
“Actually it is a matter of interpreting the law in which the word of ‘houses’ is included among clubs, restaurants, roads, streets and other public places used for holding marriage functions. We are taking action against those who are arranging marriage functions at their big houses (farmhouses etc), lasting whole night, spending huge amounts on throwing lavish dinners, playing music, dancing and disturbing sleep of their neigbours,” he added.
He said there was no harm in making someone follow the timings for a ceremony or one-dish policy and ensuring that those living in the neighbourhood were not disturbed and electricity was not being wasted.
The DCO said the CDGL had also decided to seek input from the law department about insertion of the word “houses” in the Act. “Once we get a detailed clarification about this word, the problem will be solved,” he added.
He claimed the officials conducting such raids never misbehaved with anybody as they just requested them to follow the timings and one-dish policy and care about the sleep of their neighbours.
“We only take action if someone ignores our requests. And we do this in the best interest of the public,” he insisted. He said the people should also act responsibly and follow the law as it was in their own interest.