The Maharashtra Cabinet on Wednesday upheld the state’s decision to allow an entertainment tax waiver of Rs 3.36 crore to an event management company for American pop star Michael Jackson’s concert in Mumbai in 1996, reported PTI. In 2011, the Bombay High Court had set aside the tax waiver, and asked the government to reconsider its decision.
The singer had performed in Mumbai on November 1, 1996, and had also visited the private residence of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray. The party was in power along with the Bharatiya Janata Party when the concert was held in 1996.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s office said his administration had used discretionary powers under Section 6(3) of the Maharashtra Entertainment Duty Act, 1923, to grant the tax waiver. The event was organised by the group Shiv Udyog Sena, which was then led by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, along with private event management firm Wizcraft Entertainment Agency Private Limited.
Following the Cabinet’s decision on Wednesday, the event management company may now claim the amount.
The concert was called a “classical” show, and the then Shiv Sena-led government had granted the tax waiver on the basis that the Shiv Udyog Sena would use the proceeds from the event for charity. However, the Bombay High Court had on April 13, 2011, set aside the state government’s order, citing “non-application of mind”, according to The Indian Express.
The court had taken up the matter after the Mumbai Grahak Panchayat challenged the state’s decision in court. The association had contended that pop music did not qualify for a tax waiver under the Entertainment Duty Act. It had also noted that the Raj Thackeray-led group was not registered as a charity organisation with the Charity Commissioner.
In 2018, still under the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition government, the Maharashtra revenue department had conducted hearings in the matter. The department, now under the Congress, on Wednesday said that “pop music was a form of beat music”, which qualified for a tax waiver under the norms, The Indian Express reported. It was also ruled that the decision was taken under the special powers of the state, and “there was no need to delve into whether the charity purpose for the show was met”.
The previous BJP-Shiv Sena government had also considered such an exemption for a 2016 show by British rock band Coldplay.