Homosexuality a social evil for some, says Supreme Court, denies tax exemption to gay Gujarati movie

Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India

In what can be termed as another jolt for gay rights in the country, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court said that homosexuality is akin to social evil for some, and refused tax-exemption to a Gujarati movie based on the true story of Manvendra Singh Gohil- the gay prince of Rajpipla, Indian Express reported.

Meghdhanyshya — The colour of life, is a movie by K R Devmani’s and depicts the sufferings of homosexuals. It was cleared by the Censor Board as well. However, Gujarat Government denied tax exemption to the movie stating that it encourages homosexuality, could cause disharmony in the society, and no “decent family” would want to watch it. Gujarati colour movies produced after April 1997 get a 100% tax exemption. However, the exemption is denied to films depicting evil customs, blind faith, sati, dowry and such “social evils,” and those “against national unity”.

The decision of the state government was challenged in the High Court, where Gujarat government argued that the movie was a “threat to national unity” and promoted homosexuality, which was an offence under Sec 377 and depicted social evil. In Feb 2014, Gujarat High Court however granted the tax exemption, ruling that “a movie cannot be stalled only because it is based on a controversial subject” and that the government had denied freedom of expression to Devmani.

The state government challenged the verdict in Supreme Court, reiterating that the movie came under the “ambit of social evil”. The Supreme Court had put a stay on the High Court verdict in April 2014, and listed it for further hearing in 2015.
Justices Anil R Dave and Adarsh K Goel, while admitting the appeal by Gujarat Government yesterday, granted leave in the matter, saying that the interim order denying tax-exemption to the movie shall continue. Granting leave in legal parlance means that “that the case would be heard only after arguments in all cases, filed and admitted for hearing before it, are concluded.In effect, Devmani’s case, filed in 2014, will not be listed for hearing in ordinary course at least for three years from now,” Indian Express reported.
An exasperated Devmani told Indian Express, “I think the movie is killed. It cannot wait for another three or four years when there is no certainty that the court will eventually rule in my favour. 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.”
Strangely, the bench had first passed its order in the absence of senior advocate Anand Grover, Devmani’s counsel. When Mr. Grover protested, the bench heard him for a few minutes, but did not change its previous order.
Sukhdeep Singh