Exemption From Entertainment Tax To Encourage Tamil Film Titles Cannot Be Extended Merely On Using Single Tamil Letter: Madras High Court
The Madras High Court has recently observed that exemption from payment of entertainment tax is a concession granted by the government for promoting usage of Tamil language and merely using Tamil letter in the title of the movie is not a ground for claiming exemption from payment of entertainment tax.
Exemption from payment of Entertainment tax given to a film is a concession granted by the Government to encourage the film makers to use Tamil title for their films. Concession can never be claimed as a matter of right. Concession is to be extended, if the authorities are satisfied and the conditions stipulated in the policy are complied with.
Justice SM Subramaniam was hearing a plea by G Sundararajan, proprietor of Sri Vijalakshmi Films and producer of the 2015 tamil movie "I".
Sundararajan was challenging the order passed by the Commissioner of Puducherry Municipality rejecting his application for claiming exemption from payment of entertainment tax. He claimed that 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.
The Puducherry Municipality, however submitted that the decision to grant exemption from payment of entertainment tax was taken by the government by way of a Government Order in 2007. Through this order, exemption was granted for movies with Tamil and Telugu titles. A committee was also set up to ensure as to whether the title is really in Tamil / Telugu or otherwise.
It was submitted that the committee had gone into the merits of the application and had decided that Sundararajan's movie title could not be considered as a Tamil title and thus rejected the application.
The respondents also pointed out that the exemption was granted to the theatre owners and thus, Sundararajan being the distributor had no locus standi to claim exemption.
The court agreed with this view. The court noted that unless there were allegations of malafide or violation of statutory provisions, the court should not interfere with the decision of the Expert Committee.
The payment of Entertainment tax is the rule. 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 in exercise of the powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
Thus, noting that the petitioner did not have any locus standi to claim exemption and that there was no infirmity in the order of the municipality, the court dismissed the petition.
Case Title: G Sundararajan v The Secretary and others
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 91