Court reserves verdict on actor Vijay’s plea to expunge adverse remarks

Actor Vijay  

A Division Bench of the Madras High Court on Monday reserved its verdict on a writ appeal preferred by actor C. Joseph Vijay to expunge adverse remarks made against him by a single judge of the court in July this year. The remarks were made while dismissing his 2012 plea to exempt payment of entry tax for his Rolls Royce Ghost imported from England.

Justices Pushpa Sathyanarayana and Mohammed Shaffiq deferred their judgement, after hearing elaborate arguments advanced by senior counsel Vijay Narayan. The counsel contended that the single judge had made wholly unjustified remarks against the actor and portrayed him, as well as the entire film industry, as anti-national.

Mr. Narayan said importers of luxury cars had to pay customs duty to the Centre. Over and above that, State governments began demanding entry tax too. So, some importers filed cases before various High Courts and obtained favourable orders. These were followed by numerous such cases and Mr. Vijay was one of those litigants before the Madras High Court. His writ petition was admitted in 2012 with a rider to pay 20% of the tax, and he complied with the interim order. Thereafter, in 2017, the Supreme Court, in a case arising from the Kerala High Court, ruled that State governments were entitled to levy entry tax. After that, the Madras High Court began dismissing all pending writ petitions in connection with the issue.

Though petitions filed by other importers were dismissed simpliciter with a direction to remit the full tax amount, the single judge had taken exception to the writ petition filed by the actor alone and gone ahead making scathing remarks, the senior counsel said. The actor was primarily criticised by the judge for not disclosing his profession in the affidavit.

“When I import a car, my profession has nothing to do with it. Whether I am a lawyer or doctor, it doesn’t matter,” the senior counsel said. He argued that not mentioning of the profession in the affidavit need not be looked into so seriously. He also said that the single judge had portrayed the entire film industry in a bad light, as if it was full of tax evaders.

“I had not evaded any tax. I had only exercised my constitutional right to challenge levy of tax like all others. Every body was filing cases against levy of entry tax at that time and I also did the same because that was the law from 2005 to 2017. If demand of tax is unconstitutional, certainly I have a right to come to court and challenge it,” the counsel argued.

The counsel also informed the court that the actor had paid even the rest of the 80% of entry tax amounting to ₹32.30 lakh by way of a Demand Draft to the Commercial Taxes department on August 7 this year. When Justice Sathyanarayana wanted to know if efforts were taken to request the single judge to expunge the remarks, the counsel replied in the negative.

The Division Bench was told that the single judge had, in August this year, made similar remarks while disposing of a 2015 writ petition filed by actor Dhanush against the demand of entry tax for a similar Rolls Royce Ghost imported by him in 2015. “I don't think he will change his mind,” the senior counsel said.

He went on to state that the actor had not committed any sin to invite such remarks from the single judge. “All that he did was to engage a lawyer and file a case. It hurts when a court paints as if he is some sort of a criminal. He has not done anything to deserve this,” the counsel argued and cited Supreme Court verdicts against making unwarranted comments about litigants.

“I don't think it is for the courts to decide whether a rich person should buy a car or a bungalow. There are people who buy aircrafts. Therefore, this kind of philosophy is not for court to make,” Mr. Narayan said and urged the Division Bench to also set aside costs of ₹1 lakh that the single judge had imposed and directed the actor to pay to the Chief Minister's Public Relief Fund.

When Justice Sathyanarayana said the money could instead be paid to the Cancer Institute in Adyar, the senior counsel said the actor would donate on his own and it need not be an order of the court.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 8:52:36 AM |

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