The release of a Gujarati movie which features a special message from the ‘gay prince of Rajpipla’ Manvendra Singh Gohil could be stalled for several years as it is embroiled in a court case relating to its tax exemption status.
According to media reports, the Gujarat Government denied tax exemption to the Meghdhanyshya — The colour of life stating that it encourages homosexuality, could cause disharmony in the society, and no ‘decent family’ would want to watch it.
The Gujarat High Court in February last year snubbed the government, saying its decision deprived director KR Devmani of his fundamental right to freedom of expression, and held that a movie cannot be stalled only because it is based on a controversial subject.
Gujarati colour movies produced after April 1997 are entitled to receive a 100% tax exemption. The exemption is however denied to films depicting evil customs, blind faith, sati, dowry and ‘social evils’ and those ‘against national unity.’
Same-sex relations is illegal under Section 377 of the Indian Penal code.
According to the film’s website, it notes that there are no sexual scenes in the film and that it is a ‘family drama and can be watched with the whole family.’
The state government challenged the verdict in Supreme Court where Justices Anil R Dave and Adarsh K Goel last week granted leave in the matter which means the case will only be heard after arguments in all cases, filed and admitted for hearing before it, are concluded. The bench also stated that its interim order, denying tax exemption to the movie shall continue.
The Indian Express estimates that the case won’t be heard for another three years.
‘I think the movie is killed,’ Devmani was quoted as saying.
‘It cannot wait for another three or four years when there is no certainty that the court will eventually rule in my favor. It is ironical that movies showing extra-marital relationships and containing scenes of rape and violence are given the exemption but a movie depicting sufferings of a homosexual person does not pass the state’s muster,’ he added.
The movie was originally denied exemption by the State Tax Commissioner who said that it would send a message that the state was endorsing and encouraging homosexuality, and would create friction in the society.
The Censor Board has cleared the film for release.
Devmani argued that the Tax Commissioner cannot play the ‘super Censor Board.’
‘Denying tax concession because subject is controversial or unpopular is hostile discrimination and curtails fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. Being homosexual is not illegal per se under Section 377, IPC,’ he argued.
The Supreme Court judges said this week ‘there are people in whose views this may be akin to social evils’ and that Devmani can release the movie without seeking tax exemption.