The legal battle surrounding the concert by singer Michael Jackson in the city 15 years ago continues with the Bombay high court observing that prima facie the then government had not applied its mind while granting entertainment tax exemption.
A division bench of justice DK Deshmukh and justice Anoop Mohta observed on Monday: "The only reason given by the government for exemption was that the concert was for a charitable cause which it clearly was not."
The court was hearing a petition filed by the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat challenging the 100% exemption granted to the concert. The concert was organised by trust the Shiv Udyog Samiti founded by Raj Thackeray along with event management company - Wizcraft.
The petition alleged that the organisers had misrepresented facts to the state government following which the then minister for cultural affairs, Pramod Navalkar, had granted exemption. Justice Deshmukh remarked: "You (Wizcraft) gave the application seeking exemption directly to the chambers of the minister who passed an order in your favour within a day without even conducting a proper enquiry. No one knew what the exact nature of the concert was."
While reserving its order for Wednesday, the high court said it was inclined to direct the state government to reconsider Wizcraft's application filed in 1996 seeking entertainment tax exemption afresh.
"We will set aside the government's earlier order granting tax exemption and direct them to conduct a proper inquiry. Till then, the proceeds of the concert amounting to around Rs 7 crore will be kept with the court," said justice Deshmukh. The entertainment tax exemption granted to the "classical" show performed by Jackson cost the state exchequer around Rs11.60 crore, claims the petition.