The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mama Bachchan livid at wedding expense queries

New Delhi, Dec. 1: Actress-turned-MP Jaya Bachchan today claimed the service tax department had “humiliated” her by asking how much her family had spent on beauticians and flowers during son Abhishek’s April wedding with Aishwarya Rai.

The complaint, which came in the middle of a debate in the Rajya Sabha, prompted another from family friend and party colleague Amar Singh.

The Samajwadi leader said the tax notice was another instance of selective harassment of political opponents by the Congress-led central coalition headed by Sonia Gandhi.

Relations between the Gandhis and the Bachchans, once extremely close, are said to be strained now.

“I received notices from tax authorities who wanted to know how much money was spent on beauty parlour and flower decoration on the marriage of my son,” Jaya told the House.

“Since I myself felt humiliated, I can empathise with others who may have faced harassment at the hands of tax authorities.”

Although Jaya claimed the authorities harass people in the name of service tax, such probing questions on wedding expenses are not unusual.

A few years ago, Lalu Prasad, too, was asked about the money he had spent on his daughter’s wedding, though the query came from the income tax department.

Jaya, however, found support from a couple of other leaders as well.

Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav alleged that the government was following a “pick-and-choose” policy for ensuring tax compliance.

“While those doing small-time jobs like beauticians and hair dressers are being asked for information, this is not the case with big-time industrial houses like the Ambanis and the Vedantas,” he said.

Samajwadi leader Brij Bhushan Tiwari slammed the government for not defining service tax.

“Questions like how much you spent on your gardener and hairstylist as pointed out by my party member is a case of harassment in the name of service tax, which has not been clearly defined by the government,” he said.

Finance minister P. Chidambaram sat silently through the ruckus that continued for a few minutes before subsiding on its own.

Later, outside the House, Amar Singh said the Bachchans would not do anything against the law and would certainly reply to the tax notice if it was legal.

“We are law-abiding people. If the notice is within the law, we will certainly reply,” the Samajwadi general secretary said.

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