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May 5, 2010
The Bombay High Court has directed that Sharad Pawar, the federal agriculture minister and president of the Mumbai Cricket Association, Lalit Modi, the suspended IPL chairman, and Chirayu Amin, the interim chairman, be made party in a petition regarding the levy of entertainment tax by the Maharashtra government on IPL matches held in the state. While hearing arguments on Wednesday, it also raised the question of whether a minister being a member of a cricket body constituted a conflict of interest.
The court's direction and observations came on a public interest litigation that challenges the Maharashtra government's decision to waive entertainment tax for the recent IPL season. The petitioner - Subhash Desai, a member of the Shiv Sena political party - claims that in January this year the state government, of which Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party is a member, decided to levy the entertainment tax on IPL but the decision was not implemented.
The exemption is estimated to have cost the government several crore rupees.
"If a minister holds a post in a cricket association, and the state cabinet is to decide on granting some exemption to the association...perhaps conflict of interest may arise," the bench observed, while seeking the federal government's view on whether any "conflict of interest" arose if a minister was a member of a cricket body.
The BCCI's counsel contended that Pawar currently had no connection with the BCCI or IPL, though he headed the apex cricketing body two years ago. However, the petitioner contended that since the finance portfolio in the Maharashtra government was with the NCP, the decision not to levy the tax was "politically motivated".
"This is a very important issue," the bench said, seeking the assistance of the additional solicitor-general of India, who represents the Union - also impleaded in the case - on this.
The court observed that "prima facie this activity (IPL matches) is covered under entertainment tax. If there is no exemption, then state has no option but to recover it".
The court adjourned the hearing till June 22.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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