The Madras high court has come down hard on top cinema star Vijay for challenging levy of Entry Tax on his imported luxury car, Rolls Royce Ghost, saying such a reputed actor is 'expected to pay the tax promptly and punctually', and should not remain a mere reel-life hero.
Dismissing the petition related to the import of the car from England in 2012, Justice SM Subramaniam also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on Vijay and observed 'tax evasion is to be construed as anti-national habit, attitude and mindset and unconstitutional'.
Supposed to be one of the top-paid stars in Tamil cinema, actor Vijay is known for his big-ticket hits and commands good box-office opening.
The judge pointed out that the petitioner, C Joseph Vijay, 'has not even stated his profession or occupation in his affidavit. The affidavit is blank in respect of these particulars', and pointed out that the fact that he was an actor came to light only after Vijay's counsel made a mention.
Rolls Royce Ghost, a luxury brand, is said to cost a few crores, with available information indicating its current market price could be in the range of around Rs 5 crore and go upwards.
"The petitioner has imported a prestigious costly car from England. But, unfortunately not paid the Entry tax as per the statutes. He filed a writ petition in order to avoid payment of Entry tax for the car imported from England."
"The petitioner, who is a reputed cine actor, is expected to pay the tax promptly and punctually," the judge said in his recent order.
The court further said the actor has a large scale fan groups and they see them as "real heroes."
"In the state of Tamil Nadu, cine heroes rose as rulers of the state and therefore, the people are under the impression that they are the real heroes. Thus, they are not expected to behave like reel heroes."
"Tax evasion is to be construed as anti-national habit, attitude and mindset and unconstitutional," the judge noted.
"These actors are portraying themselves as champions to bring social justice....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 court noted.
In his petition, Vijay prayed for a writ of Mandamus to the respondents--Home Department (Transport), Assistant Commissioner (Commercial Taxes), Assessment Circle, Chennai, the Regional Transport Officer, Chennai South and the Motor Vehicle Inspector, Chennai South forbearing them and their subordinates from demanding or collecting entry tax.
He submitted that he had paid the import duty to the Customs department and contended that extraordinary Entry tax was imposed.
Dismissing the petition, the court directed Vijay to "pay the Entry tax as demanded by the respondents within a period of two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order, by adjusting 20 per cent of Entry tax as ordered by this Court in the interim order dated 17.07.2012, if already paid."
In the absence of payment of Entry tax by the petitioner within the stipulated period, the respondents were directed to initiate all further actions by following the procedures.
Taxation was the backbone of the country's economy and "tax is mandatory contribution and not a voluntary payment or donation, which one decides on one's own."
The judge further said the Constitutional goal of social justice can be achieved only if people of such stature pay the tax punctually and act as real heroes in their life.
"Person paying tax punctually and promptly is to be considered as a real hero," the court noted.
The common man was motivated and encouraged to behave as a lawful citizen and pay tax and to thrive hard to achieve social justice in the society.
"If the rich, affluent and reputed persons fail to pay the tax as applicable, then this Court with pain, records that it would be a long way to achieve the constitutional goals," the judge said.
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," the judge said.
"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 have 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," he added.
Reputed persons should realise that the money reaching them is from the "poor man's blood and from their hard-earned money and not from the sky."
The respondents were competent to collect Entry Tax and therefore, "the petitioner herein is also liable to pay the Entry Tax as per the claim made," the court ruled.