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Taxman on the catwalk trail
December, 08th 2007

Is fashion show entertainment or education?

Fashion show judges are usually envied for some of the best seats they occupy. But this is the story of a fashion show that put the judges in an unenviable situation: they had to decide whether the show was entertainment or education.

The show in question was organised in July 2000 by Amit Kumar, the appellant, at St. Andrews Inter College in Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh, for the selection of Mr Gorakhpur and Miss Gorakhpur.

Apparently, the show had been held without the permission of the District Magistrate. An enquiry was held, and it was found that entertainment tax had not been paid for performing the fashion show. Accordingly a show-cause notice was issued to Kumar under Section 12 of the Uttar Pradesh Entertainment and Betting Tax Act, 1979.

Kumar replied that he was only a choreographer for the show. He also stated that the show had been organised as a charity show, in connection with the establishment of an Institute of Art, Fashion Designing and Modelling at Gorakhpur in collaboration with the Cambridge Intertia Group.

The reply put forth the stand that Section 5 of the 1979 Act spoke of prior permission for any programme relating to entertainment; since the programme in question was not entertainment within the meaning of the Act, the same had been held by the Institution with prior intimation to the office of the District Magistrate, contended Kumar.

It was reiterated that the programme was of a competitive nature and there was no element of entertainment involved. Furthermore, neither was any cultural, music and dance programme conducted nor was any amount collected from the spectators by way of entry fee, he said.

The District Magistrate chose to rely on the report submitted by his Department as to the collection of entry fee from the spectators and funds from the organisers, narrates the text of the apex court verdict dated November 28. Reference was also made to other shows of similar nature held in Gorakhpur where fashion shows had been held after depositing the entertainment tax payable in respect thereof and after obtaining the permission of the District Magistrate.

Therefore, rejecting the explanation offered by Kumar, the District Magistrate came to the conclusion that the appellant had collected a total sum of Rs 1,62,500 from the spectators and a further sum of Rs 25,000 from the five organisers at the rate of Rs 5,000 from each organiser.

On this basis, a demand was raised by way of entertainment tax for Rs 43,270. A further sum of Rs 20,000 was demanded by way of penalty from the Cambridge Intertia Group.

The case went to the Allahabad High Court, where it was urged on behalf of the show organisers that the event was entirety charitable in nature; and that being for an educational purpose, it was exempted under Section 11(3) of the 1979 Act. The High Court held that a fashion show could not be said to be in aid of education and was only meant to entertain the public.

Aggrieved by the decision, Kumar took up the issue before the apex court, by way of a special leave petition. There, it was again argued that the fashion show was merely competitive in nature and being organised for the sake of publicity in connection with the proposed establishment of an Institute of Art, Fashion Designing and Modelling by the Cambridge Intertia Group. Even if there were any demand for tax, the same should be on the real organisers and convener of the fashion show, rather than on the choreographer, said Kumars counsel.

On the other side, it was the Additional Advocate-General who spoke for the State of UP, making a reference to the advertisement that had been published for the show. (Interestingly, a Minister was the chief guest at the fashion show, and various arrangements had been made so that the programme could be conducted safely and without any disturbance.)

After hearing rival submissions, Justices C. K. Thakker and Altamas Kabir observed that the fashion show had been held with full knowledge that entertainment tax was payable in respect thereof. And that though tickets may not have been issued in respect of the programme and only invitation cards had been issued, the same was merely a subterfuge for the purpose of evading and/or avoiding payment of entertainment tax.

It is difficult to believe, said the judges, that the fashion show was held with the object of educating prospective students who would be interested in joining the Institute of Art, Fashion Designing and Modelling.

As the advertisement referred to above indicates the object of the show was to invite people to come and watch the new world of glamour and modelling and to see the world of exotic fashion in Gorakhpur itself.

Thus, seeing no reason to interfere with the order passed by the District Magistrate, Gorakhpur, and the High Court, the apex court had no hesitation in dismissing the appeal.

* * *

Mistake defined

Honest Ventidius; you mistake my love, says Timon of Athens. And, in The Taming of the Shrew Hortensio protests, Mistake no more: I am not Licio, nor a musician, as I seem to be. The Bard confesses in a sonnet, I mistake my view. He continues, The sun itself sees not till heaven clears. O cunning Love! With tears thou keepst me blind, lest eyes well-seeing thy foul faults should find.

Mistake is an ordinary word but in taxation laws, it has a special significance, explained the apex court in a recent verdict. It is not an arithmetical error, which after a judicious probe into the record from which it is supposed to emanate is discerned. The word mistake is inherently indefinite in scope, as to what may be a mistake for one may not be one for another.

It may be a mistake to think that you are the only one who doesnt understand the truth behind mistake. It is mostly subjective and the dividing line in border areas is thin and indiscernible, elaborated the Supreme Court, when deciding the Deva Metal Powders Pvt Ltd vs Commissioner, Trade Tax, UP case on December 4. It is something which a duly and judiciously instructed mind can find out from the record.


When tax compliance increases, can we expect to see an impact on

Tax rates?

No, traffic violations!


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