The Bombay High Court on Thursday refused to stay the concert of British rock band Coldplay, but said the State government should take an undertaking from the event organiser that it would be willing to pay the entertainment duty if the court directs so in future.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice M.S. Sonak was hearing a public interest litigation filed by activists Anjali Damania and Hemant Gavande, challenging the government’s decision to waive the entertainment duty. The petitioners have contended that exemption from payment of entertainment duty under the Bombay Entertainment Duty Act 1923 can be given only to programmes organised for charitable or educational purposes.
The concert is scheduled to be held on November 19 at the MMRDA grounds at Bandra Kurla Complex.
Acting advocate general Rohit Deo submitted that the festival was not just a rock show. “It is going to be an eight-hour programme and the concert by Coldplay is just part of it. The festival is to create awareness of three subjects: gender equality, education and clean water,” Mr. Deo said.
He said out of the 80,000 tickets, 65,000 will be given free of cost to those who show their contribution to society in the above-mentioned subjects. “Of the remaining, 11,000 will be sold by the organiser to meet the expenditure and 4,000 have been kept for dignitaries.”
The petitioners’ lawyer, Uday Warunjikar, argued that the organisers are from Delhi and, hence, there cannot be any guarantee that in future they will pay the entertainment duty. Warunjikar cited the example of a show for Michael Jackson in 1996, stating in that case the HC had later ordered the organisers to deposit the entertainment duty in court.
The court said, “If you look at everything with tainted glasses then everything will appear yellow. We cannot suspect and doubt everything and every action of the State government.”
After hearing arguments of both sides, the court said it cannot accept the contentions of the petitioners at this stage and hence, is not inclined to stay the concert. “However, in the interest of justice we cannot throw away this petition. As a precautionary measure, the State is directed to take an undertaking from the organiser that in future if the petition succeeds, then they (organiser) will pay the entertainment duty,” said Chief Justice Chellur. — PTI