Producers of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim's movie 'MSG: The Messenger', which has been banned in Punjab, have sought exemption from entertainment tax in Haryana.
The movie - earlier titled 'MSG: The Messenger of God' - which has Ram Rahim as the lead actor and a co-director, has been produced by Hakikat Entertainment Private Limited. Its release was deferred due to hiccups in clearance from the censor board, and it's finally slated to hit the screens on February 13.
Excise and taxation department sources told HT that the company applied for exemption from payment of 30% entertainment tax last month, saying that it carried a message against drug abuse and alcoholism.
"As there is a provision for exemption from entertainment duty under section 11 of the Punjab Entertainments Duty Act, 1955, a screening of the film before an inter-departmental committee was fixed. However, as the company could not produce the censor clearance certificate, that had to be deferred," the sources said.
The producer informed the department on Monday that the censor certificate had been received, reiterating the request for tax exemption, said a senior department officer, requesting anonymity. As per the procedure, the committee, headed by an officer of the rank of additional excise and taxation commissioner, would now watch the film and take a view whether it qualifies for tax exemption or not.
Once the committee, which has officials from finance, public relations and cultural affairs departments as members, gives its recommendation, the final decision would rest with the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government in the state. The Sirsa-based dera had openly backed the BJP in the assembly polls first in Haryana and then in Delhi.
After Punjab's SAD-led government, which has BJP as the junior partner, put a ban on screening of the movie last month, apprehending a law and order problem, the Haryana Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (HSGMC) and the opposition Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) had demanded a similar ban in Haryana. The film, which was originally supposed to release on January 16, had got delayed due to a run-in with the censor board's examining committee that had objections to the manner in which the dera chief had projected himself as a godman.