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SC to look into prejudice against Hindi films.

TAX SOPS given by state governments to promote regional language films are set to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

A bench comprising Justice S. H. Kapadia and Justice Aftab Alam on Friday issued notice on a petition by a Hindi film distribution company alleging discriminatory treatment of Hindi and other non- state language films by several state governments.

In a writ petition before the Supreme Court, Aashirwad Films submitted that as many as 14 state governments were discriminating between films on the basis of language while levying entertainment tax.

This was despite the fact that the court had earlier ruled that the practice was in violation of the fundamental rights to equality and freedom of speech and expression.

Taking note of the contention, the bench directed the court registry to dispatch notices to all state governments arrayed as respondents in the writ petition filed by the company.

On the extent of discrimination against Bollywood movies, Aashirwad Films -- in its petition drafted by advocate K. V. Dhananjay -- pointed out that Karnataka had issued a formal order in 2004 directing that a non- Kannada film could be released in its territory only after seven weeks of its release outside the state.

Hyderabad- based Aashirwad Films had approached the Supreme Court for the second time. Allowing its petition in 2007, the apex court had struck down an Andhra Pradesh law discriminating between Telugu and non- Telugu films.

Holding that imposition of a mere 10 per cent tax on Telugu films against 24 per cent levied on others was discriminatory, the court had stressed that a statute also had to be tested on the touchstone of social values as mentioned in the Constitution.

" In any case, it cannot be the object of any statute to be socially divisive in which event it may fall foul of broad constitutional scheme enshrined under Articles 19 and 21, and also the Preamble," the apex court said.

Rajan Sharma, the proprietor of Aashirwad Films, said he had to approach Supreme Court again because the Andhra Pradesh government had found a way out and was still discriminating between Telugu and non- Telugu films.

With the apex court prohibiting discrimination on the basis of language, the state government had issued a fresh notification levying 7 per cent entertainment tax on films produced in the state against 20 per cent on those produced outside.

" I am fighting against the discrimination for long," Sharma said. " There was a total exemption for Kannada films in Karnataka and Marathi films in Maharashtra, The Hindi film distributors have suffered."

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Nov 9, 2009
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