Madras High Court: In a petition filed for directing the respondents to grant the exemption from payment of entertainment tax for the Tamil film “I” starring Vikram and Amy Jackson, the Single Judge bench of S.M. Subramaniam, J. held that mere using the Tamil letter in a film cannot be a ground to grant exemption from payment of entertainment tax .
In the case at hand, the petitioner produced the movie called “I” and submitted an application for grant of exemption for payment of entertainment tax. The application was filed on the ground that the movie is named in Tamil language and therefore, entitled to seek entertainment tax exemption based on the Government orders passed. The application was considered by the competent authorities and the request for exemption from payment of entertainment tax was rejected on the ground that the name of the film “I” cannot be construed as Tamil language within the parameters fixed in the Government Order and therefore, the petitioner is not entitled to get exemption from payment of entertainment tax.
The petitioner contended that the word “I” in Tamil can be considered as exclamation and it conveys a definite meaning and thus, the decision taken by the authorities are erroneous and thus, the impugned order impugned must be set aside. It is further contended that in wall posters, advertisements, movie, etc., the petitioner used the Tamil word “I” and therefore, they are entitled for exemption from payment of entertainment tax, as per the Government Orders.
The respondent submitted that the exemption from payment of entertainment tax was granted to the theatre owners and not to the distributors. Therefore, the petitioner is not entitled to get exemption, since the petitioner is a distributor. Further, the Government issued orders granting exemption to the cine films with titles in Tamil and Telugu by payment of entertainment tax.
The Court noted that the Expert Committee has gone into the merits elaborately and considered the contents in the movie and formed an opinion that the letter “I” named for the petitioner’s film cannot be considered as Tamil title for extending the benefit of exemption from payment of Entertainment tax. The Court said that the opinion of the expert body became final. The High Court in exercise of the powers of judicial review under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, ordinarily cannot interfere with the opinion of the expert body. If the opinion of the Expert Committee is tainted with the allegation of mala fides or directly in violation of the Statutory provisions or the scheme or the policy, then only the High Court can interfere with such an opinion.
The Court said that payment of entertainment tax is the rule and granting exemption is an exception. Thus, such exceptions and the power of discretion to grant exemption are to be exercised cautiously and mere using the Tamil letter in a film cannot be a ground to grant exemption from payment of entertainment tax by the High Court.
The Court further said that the petitioner has no locus standi to submit an application or to seek exemption from payment of entertainment tax based on the Government order as the benefit was extended only to the cine theatre owners and the petitioner is a distributor of the film.
[G. Sundararajan v The Secretary, 2023 SCC OnLine Mad 1794, decided on 08-03-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioner: Advocate T. Ravichandran;
For the Respondents: Additional Government Pleader B. Ramaswamy, Senior Counsel T.P. Manoharan , Advocate D. Ravi Chander.