23 years after Michael Jackson’s Mumbai concert, Maharashtra government may settle accounts
Close to twenty-three years after the then Raj Thackeray-led Shiv Udyog Sena (SUS) organised a Michael Jackson concert in Mumbai on November 1, 1996, the state plans to settle all accounts concerning the waived entertainment duty.
The state cabinet is expected to take a decision on the waiver given to the show and release the profit of Rs. 3.40 crore, earned from the show, along with the interest for all the years, to the organisers.
“We have taken an opinion from the law and judiciary department, which stated that the waiver was granted according to the law and a decision about it, as per the HC order, should be taken at the earliest. The amount earned from the show has been deposited in the court treasury by the organiser, Wizcraft, which has submitted an application for the release of the money with the interest for all these years,” said an official from Mantralaya.
In 1996 itself, the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat had moved the Bombay high court (HC), challenging the waiver of the entertainment duty granted to the concert. This dispute led to the money being deposited in the court’s treasury. The court, in April 2011, had asked the state government to reconsider the waiver in eight weeks. The state government, however, could not decide on it for more than eight years, stating that the records of related files were burnt in the Mantralaya fire of June 2012.
The revenue department has now prepared a proposal for a decision on the waiver. It is of the opinion that the waiver was given by the then Shiv Sena-BJP government using its discretionary powers under section 6(3) of the Maharashtra Entertainment Duty Act 1923. The department has left it to the government to decide whether to uphold the Sena-BJP government’s decision or change it. Considering the fact that since the SUS no more exists and as the event had the blessings of the late Sena chief Bal Thackeray, the government, in which the Sena is a ruling partner, is unlikely to overrule the previous government’s decision.
The revenue department wants the court to take a call on the demand by the organisers as the amount is with the court for more than two decades. The department is worried if the court will point out the enormous delay by the government in taking the decision.
Shishir Deshpande of Mumbai Grahak Pachayat, said, “We have made our stance clear in court that the waiver given was arbitrary and it is the money that belongs to the people of Maharashtra. The SUS, which no more exists, never ever appeared in the court and has lost the opportunity to present its stance. The SUS was not even registered as a charity organisation when the waiver was given. Even if the government decides to release the amount, the question remains is to whom it will go to. Wizcraft was only an event management company and has no right to claim the amount. In case the decision of giving the money back to Wizcraft is taken, it will be open to question in the court.”
“We have nothing to say about the proposal by the revenue department as we have full faith in them and the honourable court. We will comply with the HC and state government order. We had always maintained that we never collected entertainment duty as it was waived off by the government,” said a Wizcraft official.
The concert at Andheri Sports Complex had evoked mixed reactions with the Sena facing criticism over its “hypocrisy” that it used to oppose western influence on Indian culture. The King of Pop had even visited Thackeray’s Bandra home, Matoshree, and interacted with Sena chief late Bal Thackeray.