The Bombay High Court, on Tuesday, refused to direct the state government to recover entertainment tax on Indian Premier League matches played in the state during its last season. It also observed that central and state ministers should stay away from sporting bodies like the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

Though the division bench of Justice P B Majmudar and Justice Anoop Mohta lauded the objective of Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai in filing the public interest litigation, the bench said it could not direct the state to recover entertainment tax on matches held in the past.

The judges considered the fact that after the PIL was filed, the state had decided to levy entertainment tax on One Day International and IPL Cricket matches, while refusing directions to recover tax on 2010 season matches.

The judges said even otherwise the tax would have to be recovered from ticket purchasers, and therefore could not be enforced retrospectively. The other factor that led to the rejection of Desai’s plea was that the revenue from sale of tickets was collected by respective IPL franchises, which were not party to the litigation.

The court gave a clean-chit to union agricultural minister Sharad Pawar. “It can’t be said that Pawar influenced the state’s decision not to levy and recover entertainment tax on IPL matches played,” observed the judges in this regard.

Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai had filed the PIL alleging that the state government had deliberately avoided recovery of entertainment tax on IPL matches despite taking a decision to levy tax.

Desai’s counsel, Balkrishna Joshi, had alleged the tax was not recovered for obvious reasons – Sharad Pawar was at the helm of affairs at BCCI when his party, the Nationalist Congress Party, was part of the state’s coalition government.

The bench said the NCP chief had no ties with BCCI at the time the IPL 2010 season matches were played in Maharashtra.

The bench, however, cautioned central and state ministers to stay away from sporting bodies like BCCI. “It may result in a clash of interests,” observed the bench.

But, the bench left the decision – whether to prohibit ministers from holding posts on sporting bodies like BCCI or not — to the discretion of the appropriate authority, which had framed Code of Conduct for Ministers.

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January 2021