New Delhi: Madras High court in its ruling refused to grant exemption for the ‘Rang de Basanti' fame Siddharth Suryanarayan who wanted to be treated as par with theatre/folk artists and given tax benefits.
"The mere fact that there is an element of drama or acting both in case of theatre and films does not mean that the two activities are identical," said the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M M Sundresh in an order last week.
According to a report in Times of India, Siddharth who has acted in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi movies, said his job involved skills to display different kinds of emotions, dialogue delivery skills and acting out characters specified by the film director. "These skills are not different from those of an actor who performs in a drama," he said.
On June 20, 2012 notification of the Centre exempted performing artists or folk or classical art forms of music, dance or theatre from the liability of paying service tax under Section 66 B of the Finance Act, 1994.
Siddharth said the notification was arbitrary and discriminatory, and there was no reasonable basis behind such a classification.
The govt however said the distinction was based on valid differences and pointed out the huge expenditure involved in films as well as the earnings of film actors. This is distinct from native art and culture, which required protection as it is more in the nature of a non-profit activity, it said.
Protection to cultural and educational rights and preserving the rich heritage of composite culture of the nation is a constitutional mandate under Article 29, the Centre said.
Describing the PIL as misconceived and without any merit, the bench said, “In our view, the two categories are clearly different and distinguishable and cannot be treated at parity. The mere fact that there is an element of drama or acting both in case of theatre and in case of films does not mean that the two activities are identical, taking into consideration the circumstances in which films are made and theatre is performed.”
Also, taxation statutes have to be dealt with due deference to the legislative intent, the judges said, "What is reasonable is a question of practical details and variety of factors, which the court would be reluctant and ill-equipped to investigate." They then dismissed the petition filed by the actor.