Rajya Sabha MP and Malayalam movie star, Suresh Gopi, now has a criminal case registered against him by the Kerala police, for allegedly evading road tax on an Audi Q7 luxury SUV he purchased nearly 7 years ago. Mr. Gopi is said to have forged documents to get his Q7 SUV registered in Pondicherry, where the road tax is much lower than that in home state of Kerala. This case looks starkly similar to that of actress Amala Paul, whose Mercedes Benz S-Class was seized for tax evasion through forgery. It’s unclear if Mr. Gopi’s Q7 has been seized yet.
The Kerala police has filed an FIR at the crime branch headquarters in Trivandrum after the Inspector General of Police, S Sreejith, conducted a probe into the complaint that the parliamentarian had evaded road tax for his Audi Q7. The probe found that the MP had evaded 13.5 lakh rupees as road tax, payable to the Motor Vehicle Department of Kerala. Instead, the MP paid only Rs. 1.5 lakh to the Pondicherry RTO, and has been using the Audi Q7 on Kerala roads without paying the additional tax he should have legally paid.
The case has been filed under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 464 (forgery) and 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating). If convicted, the MP could land in jail, and also lose his Rajya Sabha membership. According to the rule book, a person can use a car that’s registered in a different state for a maximum of 11 months, after which she/he needs to pay the road tax of the state in which the car is being currently used. The person is also eligible for a refund of the original tax paid once she/he cancels the previous registration number.
But why do people evade taxes?
Simple. The road tax rate is different in various states. Some union territories such as Pondicherry and Daman have very low road taxes, even for luxury cars. This makes it profitable for people to get their vehicles registered in such RTOs, rather than their home RTOs. Making the road tax rate common across India will solve this issue.
However, since road tax is a state subject, the central government can’t make any law to make the road tax uniform across India. All the states have to sit together and come to a consensus, which is something that’s unlikely to happen. We’re likely to see more such tax evasion cases coming out in the open after RTOs across India begin acting on the offenders.