A Division Bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday stayed the operation of a critical order passed by a single judge recently while dismissing a 2012 writ petition filed by actor C. Joseph Vijay, seeking entry tax exemption for his Rolls Royce Ghost car, imported from England.
Justices M. Duraiswamy and R. Hemalatha granted the interim stay after senior counsel Vijay Narayan, representing the actor, said he was ready to pay the entire tax amount but wanted the “uncharitable” remarks made by the single judge against the “actors community at large” to be expunged.
The Division Bench directed the Commercial Tax department to raise a challan demanding 80% of the tax amount, since Mr. Vijay had already paid the rest of 20% in terms of an interim order passed by another single judge in 2012, within a week.
On receipt of the challan, the actor must remit the tax within one week thereafter, the judges ordered. They also directed the Registry to list the actor’s writ appeal on August 31 for considering his plea to expunge the remarks made by the single judge and set aside the imposition of costs of ₹1 lakh.
Mr. Narayan argued that the actor was one among hundreds of people who had approached the court seeking entry tax exemption but the single judge had chosen the case filed by the actor alone and made scathing remarks which “unjustly” portray him as anti-national.
Single judge’s order
In his order, Justice S.M. Subramaniam had came down heavily on “reel heroes” for avoiding payment of taxes and highlighted how important the revenue was for building infrastructure. He also criticised Mr. Vijay for not having even disclosed his occupation in the affidavit filed in support of his case.
“It is surprising to note that the petitioner has not even stated his profession or occupation in his affidavit. He has imported a prestigious costly car from England but unfortunately, not paid entry tax as per the statutes. He has filed a writ petition to avoid payment of tax... The petitioner, who is a reputed cine actor, is expected to pay the tax promptly and punctually,” the judge had said.
He went on to state that it was essential for every citizen to remit taxes dutifully to the government and that such payment was a mandatory contribution and not a voluntary payment or donation. Taxes help the State to construct schools, hospitals, housing projects for the poor and railways, ports and so on for all, he added.
The judge had pointed out that Mr. Vijay has a large fan base and those fans consider actors like him real heroes. “In the State of Tamil Nadu, cine heroes have risen as rulers of the State and therefore, the people are under the impression that they are real heroes. Thus, they are not expected to behave like a reel heroes. Tax evasion is to be construed as an anti-national habit, attitude and mindset and unconstitutional,” he observed.
Lamenting the stark difference between roles portrayed by the actors on the silver screen and their true character in real life, Justice Subramaniam had said: “These actors portray themselves as champions of social justice. Their movies are against corrupt activities in the society. But, they are evading tax and acting in a manner, which is not in consonance with the provisions of the Statutes.”
The constitutional goal of social justice as enshrined in the preamble of the Constitution and the spirit of Article 38(2) (minimising inequalities) could be achieved only if people of stature pay taxes punctually and act as real heroes in their life. A person paying tax punctually and promptly must be considered as a real hero, the judge had written.
“Filing a writ petition, avoiding payment of Entry tax and keeping the writ petition pending for about nine years, can never be appreciated and it is not made clear even now, whether the Entry tax as applicable has been paid by the petitioner or not. On account of efflux of time, the learned counsel for the petitioner also has not stated anything regarding this,” the court had said.
The judge had gone on to state: “Even philosophically, accumulation of wealth or possessing the world's prestigious car would not be of no assistance for a better life in our great nation, as our country is enriched with culture and social values... The reputed persons of this great nation should realise that the money [that] reaches them is from the poor man's blood and from their hard-earned money and not from the sky.”