[Entry Tax on Rolls Royce] Actors portray selves as champions of social justice but evade tax: Madras High Court imposes Rs 1 lakh costs on Vijay

The Madras High Court recently dismissed a writ petition moved by Kollywood actor, Vijay in 2012 seeking to restrain tax authorities from demanding or collecting entry tax on a ‘Rolls Royce Ghost’ car that was imported from England (C Joseph Vijay v. The State of Tamil Nadu and ors)

While dismissing the petition, Justice SM Subramaniam also imposed costs of Rs 1 lakh on Vijay, which is to be paid to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s Covid-19 Public Relief Fund within two weeks.

In passing the order, the Judge admonished the actor for filing the plea “to avoid payment of entry tax”, opining that he ought to have promptly paid the entry tax demanded by the authorities.

The Judge pointed out that cine heroes like Vijay have a large fan base which views actors as “real heroes”. Actors who portray themselves as champions of social justice and against corruption should not evade tax, the Court added.

“They are not expected to behave like reel heroes. Tax evasion is to be construed as anti-national habit, attitude and mindset and unconstitutional … These Actors are portraying themselves as champion to bring the social justice in the society. Their pictures 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 order stated.
The Court further emphasised that the common man should be motivated and encouraged to behave like lawful citizens and to pay tax. While so, the Judge remarked that if rich, affluent and reputed persons fail to pay tax, “then this Court with pain, records that it would be a long way to achieve the constitutional goals.”

In this backdrop, Justice Subramaniam termed Vijay’s non-payment of entry tax as amounting to disrespect to his fans.

“Even philosophically, accumulation of wealth or possessing the world’s prestigious Car, Rolls Royce would not be of any assistance for a better life in our great Nation, as our country is enriched with culture and social values. Thus, this Court is of the considered opinion that the non- payment of Entry tax by the petitioner, can never be appreciated and the petitioner has not respected nor responded to the lakhs and lakhs of his fans, who has paid by viewing his movies and from and out of such money, the petitioner / Actor purchased the world’s prestigious car for his personal usage. The reputed persons of this great Nation should realize that the money reaches to them is from the poor man’s blood and from their hard- earned money and not from the sky,” the Court said.
The taxation system is the backbone of the nation’s economy, the Court explained. The judge highlighted that the payment of tax is mandatory “and not a voluntary payment or donation, which one decides on one’s own.”

These funds are required to carry out various government activities including implementation of social welfare projects, law and order, activities to achieve social justice as laid down in the Constitution of India, etc, the Judge observed.

These goals can only be achieved if “people of such stature, the rich, unhesitatingly pays the tax to the Government”, the Court said.

“Filing a writ petition, avoiding payment of Entry tax and keeping the writ petition pending for about nine years, can never be appreciated”, the Court said with respect to Vijay’s plea.

The Court proceeded to direct Vijay to pay entry tax as demanded by the authorities within two weeks from the receipt of a copy of the Court’s order, after adjusting the 20% of entry tax earlier ordered to be paid by the Court in an interim order passed in 2012 (if the same has already been paid).

The petition was moved by the actor in 2012. Vijay had submitted that he has already paid applicable import duty for the Rolls Royce to the Customs Department. Following this, he sought to register the vehicle at the office of the Regional Transport Officer (RTO), Chennai South. It was Vijay’s case that the RTO told him to obtain a certificate from the Assistant Commissioner (CT), Assessment Circle, Chennai, while also adding that no entry tax is payable.

However, on approaching for the grant of a certificate, the Assistant Commissioner informed that entry tax has to be paid. This prompted the actor to approach the High Court for relief, contending that an extraordinary entry tax is being demanded for the imported vehicle.

The Court dismissed the plea, while also relying on the Supreme Court’s ruling in State of Kerala and others vs. Fr.William Fernandez Etc. The matter will now be heard on July 28, 2021, for reporting compliance.

Advocate S Kumaresan appeared for Vijay, whereas government advocate V Veluchamy appeared for the respondent-authorities.

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