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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 17:21 GMT
Court upholds wedding feast ban
By Zaffar Abbas
BBC News, Islamabad

Pakistani bride and groom
The law does not apply to the serving of food in a house
Pakistan's Supreme Court has upheld a ban on serving food at wedding receptions held in public places.

The court ruled the ban was not against Islamic teachings and should remain in force as it discourages extravagant displays of wealth.

The ban on serving food at wedding functions held in public places was imposed by the government in 1997.

In practice, it is largely ignored as technically it only permits the serving of tea or soft drinks.

Nationwide law

Headed by the Chief Justice, Nazim Hussain Shah, the three-judge court bench also ruled against a recent decision in by the government in the province of Punjab to allow the serving of one course of food during weddings.

The court ruled that a complete ban should remain enforced across the country.

In its detailed verdict, the court said it did not agree with the argument presented by the challenger that the law effectively prohibited the Islamic practice of holding a "walima" or wedding reception.

Through custom, the "walima" has come to include the serving of rich and elaborate food.

The court ruled that the law never prohibited the holding of the "walima".

It said people were at liberty to celebrate their marriage by having a "walima", but were barred from ostentatious displays of wealth.

The law does not apply to the serving of food in a house and consumed by members of the family celebrating the marriage or the house guests, the court said.

'Evil custom'

According to the Supreme Court, the government's decision was in line with the teachings of Islam, which lays great emphasis on a simple way of life.

The law also takes the pressure off lower income groups who feel obliged to spend large sums of money on wedding celebrations, the court said.

The Supreme Court also described the practice of giving dowry by the bride's family as an evil and exploitative custom, and said the state should do everything to stop it.

The court bench then went a step further to criticise some of the most popular customs linked to South Asian weddings, including the colourful rituals of mayun and mehndi (where the bride is decorated and prepared for the wedding) and baraat (a procession by the groom's friends and family to the bride's house), which are dominated by dance and music.

The bench said these customs and even the giving of large dowries were all of Hindu origin and have nothing to do with the Islamic concept of marriage.

Describing them as social evils, the court said the state should take steps to eradicate them.

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