Chennai: The Madras High Court has stayed payment of a ? 1 lakh fine on actor Vijay for seeking exemption from trying to avoid paying entry tax on the import of a high-end car - a Rolls Royce Ghost.
A two-judge bench of Justices M Duraiswamy and R Hemalatha also stayed a order passed by a single judge-bench of Justice SM Subramaniam, which was highly critical of the actor, and permitted him to remit the entire tax amount at this time.
The earlier order criticised Vijay for flouting the rules and said tax evasion ought to be "construed as anti-national habit, attitude, and mindset, and unconstitutional".
In a fresh petition Vijay challenged the fine and wanted remarks against actors to be expunged.
The judge had said people look to film stars as "real heroes" and that they could not behave like "reel heroes". "These actors", he said, "portray themselves as champions of social justice, but evade tax and act in a manner that is not in consonance with provisions of the statutes".
"A person paying tax punctually and promptly is to be considered a real hero," he had declared.
The original order came on a petition by the actor challenging the demand for payment of an "extraordinary" entry tax to register his imported car, even after paying customs duty.
The then price of the Rolls Royce Ghost, according to his team, was around ? 1.2 crore.
In 2012 the actor paid ? 1.88 crore, or 150 per cent of the cost, as customs. He had challenged the ? 40 lakh entry tax demanded by transport authorities, after paying 20 per cent.
Speaking to NDTV, his counsel, senior advocate and ex-Advocate-General Vijay Narayan, said: "Stars are as legitimate as anybody else. The same judge dismissed similar pleas by others but, in this case, the order says the petition did not reveal his profession. He dwells on him in three paragraphs (of the order)... also tarnishing all actors' (image)."
"We want these personal criticisms expunged," he said.
On the ? 1 lakh fine, he said: "A fine is imposed on a frivolous petition. But this petition was filed on the basis of a Madras High Court ruling in 2000 that entry tax need not be collected. There are 300 such cases pending," Mr Narayan said.
Justice Subramaniam had ordered Vijay to pay entry tax as demanded within two weeks of the actor receiving a copy of his order. The ? 1 lakh fine, he said, must be paid to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister's COVID-19 Public Relief Fund - also within two weeks.
In case of failure to pay up in time, the court asked the respondents to initiate necessary action.
Many say that Vijay, who has a huge fan following in Tamil Nadu, nurtures political ambitions.
His 2017 film Mersal ran into a controversy, taking on the health care system as well as GST. The same court had then rejected a plea to ban the film.