| 19 Jun 2024
Ricky Martin's letter ends a 17-year-old tax evasion issue for Sony Music India

On 6 December 1998, the popular Puerto Rican pop singer Ricky Martin had an unforgettable experience while performing in India for two specific reasons – the performance in Delhi was witnessed by his mother and the controversy related to the tax department.

Concluding the concert, the pop icon claimed that the Income Tax (IT) department “extracted” a statement from him under the threat of not letting him leave the country. Martin went on oath and issued a statement against Sony Music and imposed a tax liability on the record label.

Martin’s latest letter to the Delhi High Court reveals the songwriter had no contract with the music company for live performance or the sales of his audio cassettes in the country. Said Martin’s letter, “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.”

A bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vibhu Bakhra concluded that Martin had no financial arrangement with Sony Music for live performances or the audio cassette sales.

“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 panel also added, ““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.”

Martin had made his Indian debut in July earlier that year in Mumbai, and the two shows were organised by DNA Networks. Martin was asked to clear his tax dues, and the matter further became complicated as the IT department asked Martin to implicate Sony Music against his will.