The Madras High Court in the case of G Sundararajan v The Secretary held that the exemption from payment of entertainment tax is just a concession by the government and cannot be claimed as a right. The court thus refused relief to the producer and distributor of the 2015 Tamil film, “I” which was claimed on the ground that the movie title contains Tamil language letters.
Earlier the Puducherry administration and the Union Territory’s Revenue Department had rejected the film producer’s application for exemption from payment of 30 percent entertainment tax on two grounds.
First, even though the film’s posters in the State had the English alphabet ‘I’ written as ‘ai’ in the Tamil script, the fact that it was an English title did not change. Second, only cinema theatre owners were entitled to such exemption, and Sundararajan was the producer and distributor of the film and not a cine theatre owner.The petitioner, however, argued that ‘ai’ when written in the Tamil script is used to express an emotion of exclamation. ‘Ai’ in Tamil has a distinct meaning, and therefore, the film should be granted exemption.
The present petition was filed challenging the order of the Puducherry authorities in which the court said that, “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,” and added that, “The word “I” is a letter in Tamil language. No doubt, the letter “I” may convey a certain meaning, since Tamil is an ancient language. Even in ‘Thirukkural’, the letter “I” has been used by the poet “Tiruvalluvar” to convey some meaning. However, in the context of the film, whether the word “I” may be construed as a Tamil title or not is to be decided on merits and with reference to the contents in the movie”. Thus dismissed the plea.