17032015Tue

Last updateTue, 17 Mar 2015 2pm

#FORMULA1: Indian Grand Prix under threat over unpaid "Entertainment Tax"

The Supreme Court of India has agreed to hear a petition seeking the cancellation of the Indian Formula One Grand Prix this weekend over unpaid taxes.

The petition filed by campaigner Amit Kumar alleges that Jaypee Sports International, which owns the Buddh circuit near New Delhi, had not paid the required "Entertainment Tax" due after last year's race. 

Formula One India has been marred by problems since the inaugural race in 2011.

That same year Mr Kumar successfully argued that Formula One was entertainment and not sport and should not benefit from tax exemptions granted by the state of Uttar Pradesh which borders Delhi. 

Entertainment tax, which are applicable for large shows and sponsored festivals, has been charged to ticket buyers in 2012 for the first time.

A spokesman for circuit owner Jaypee Sports International Limited acknowledged previous tax problems in 2011 but refused to comment on the new problems.

"We will wait for the court's directive this time around as well. Whatever the court says, we are ready to follow," Askari Zaidi said.

Asked about the claim that taxes had not been paid last year, he replied: "Why should we comment on somebody's allegation?"

Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone has already removed India from the 2014 schedule, leaving the future of the event at the $450 million Buddh International Circuit in doubt.

After initially citing "logistical" problems, the billionaire was quoted in July as saying that "political" reasons caused India to miss out next year - believed to mean the lack of government support for his private empire.

Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel is expected to seal the world title in Sunday's race, with local motorsports enthusiasts hoping that a successful contest could improve the chances of an Indian GP in 2015.

"With venues in other countries also fighting for slots, we can't afford to miss out in 2015," Vicky Chandhok, who heads the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India, said.

"But I am optimistic that the promoters will work out an agreement with Formula One to have two more races. We have a great facility here."

The privately-owned Jaypee Sports International Limited, which stands to lose the most if the race does not return, insists that it will be back in 2015.

"If we get another race, it will be by default, not by design," motorsports writer Harish Samtani said. "But I am not optimistic. F1 is not meant for this country."

The lavish F1 roadshow rolled into Greater Noida in 2011 and its slick organisation helped to erase some of the memories of the chaotic Commonwealth Games of the previous year.

But while the inaugural race drew 95,000 spectators to the 100,000-capacity circuit, numbers fell to around 65,000 last year. Sluggish ticket sales this year could see figures drop further.

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