Officials of the Income Tax department have been left red-faced because of a letter written by Latin singer Ricky Martin, in which he claimed that the department “extracted” a statement against Sony Music (India) Ltd by “threatening” him after a concert in Delhi in 1998.
The letter, written to the Deputy Commissioner of Income Tax in 1999, played a crucial role in the Delhi High Court dismissing proceedings initiated by the department against the music company.
Martin had claimed in his letter that I-T officials extracted the statement to impose a tax liability on Sony Music, even though he had not had any contract with the company for his live performance or for sale of audio cassettes in India.
Retracting from a statement on oath recorded by I-T officials on December 7, 1998 at Hotel Radisson in Delhi, Martin wrote: “I was coerced and forced to sign this statement on oath and was overwhelmed by the duress exercised by you on me. This statement under oath was extracted by you from me under threats from you that I would not be allowed to leave India until I signed this statement under oath.”
Martin also urged the department to close the matter since he had no financial arrangement with Sony Music for the concert or sale of music.
The court found force in Martin’s contentions and allowed a petition moved by Sony. A bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vibhu Bakhru also noted that the I-T department could not rebut the accusations levelled by the singer, nor did they produce any other evidence to link the revenues of the live concert with the music company.
“This writ petition has been pending since 1999 and there was a sufficient time for the I-T Department to have placed on record the outcome of the investigation… nothing has been placed on record in these 17 years by the I-T to inform the court of the consequent result of said investigation,” said the court.
The court also noted that Sony Music has been able to show that DNA Networks was the organiser of the concert on December 6, 1998, and that 85 per cent of the profit from the show was given to charity.
“In the circumstances, the court quashes the impugned summons, notices and letters and orders… it is made clear that no further coercive steps shall be taken by the ITD against the petitioner…,” held the court.