Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India
AIR 1986 SC 515: 1985 Tax LR 2451: (1985) 4 ECC 111:
(1985) 1 SCC 641: (1985) 2 SCR 287
JUDGES: O. Chinnapa Reddy, A.P. Sen and E.S. Venkataramiah, JJ.
Date of Decision: 6-12-1984.
The petitioners who were shareholders and their employees engaged in the business of editing, printing and publishing newspapers, periodicals, magazines etc., filed a writ petition under article 32 of the Constitution. Some of them are trust or other kinds of establishments carrying on the same kind of business. They consumed in the course of their activity large quantities of newsprint and it was stated 60% of the expenditure involved in the production of a newspaper was utilised for buying newsprints, a substantial part of which was imported from abroad. They challenged in the petitions the validity of the imposition of import duty on newsprint imported from abroad.
They contended that the imposition of the import duty had the direct effect of crippling the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution as it had led to the increase in the price of newspapers and the inevitable consequences of reduction of their circulation. It was also urged by them that with the growth of the population and literacy in the country every newspaper was expected to register an automatic growth of at least 5% in its circulation every year but this growth was directly impeded by the increase in the price of newspapers.
Whether taxation hampers freedom of speech and expression.
In case of taxation of newspapers industry the court is called upon to reconcile the social interest involved in the freedom of speech and expression with the public interest involved in the fiscal levies imposed by the government specially because newsprint constitutes the body if expression happens to be the soul.
Further in view of the intimate connection of newsprint with the freedom of press, the tests for determining the vires of a statute taxing the newsprint have therefore to be different from the tests usually adopted for testing the vires of other taxing statutes. In case of tax on newsprint it might be sufficient to show a distinct and noticeable burdensomeness, clearly and directly attributable to the tax. Though tax can be levied on newspaper industry any such levy is subject to review by courts in the light of the provisions of the Constitution.