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HC refuses to stay ‘Coldplay’ concert

bombay high court

Mumbai : The Bombay High Court today refused to stay the upcoming concert of British rock band ‘Coldplay’, but said the Maharashtra government should take an undertaking from the event organiser that it would be willing to pay the waived 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 for the concert.

The concert by the British band is scheduled to be held on November 19 at the MMRDA grounds in suburban Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC).

The petitioners have challenged the validity of the decision primarily on grounds that exemption from payment of entertainment duty under the Bombay Entertainment Duty Act-1923 can be given only for shows or programmes organised for charitable or educational purposes.

Acting Advocate General Rohit Deo today submitted to the court that the concept of the festival was different and that it was not just a rock show.

“It is going to be an eight-hour-long programme and the concert by Coldplay is just a part of it. The festival is to create awareness and educate people mostly youngsters about three subjects – gender equality, education and clean water. These three are part of the 17 sustainable goals of the United Nations,” Deo said.

He said that out of the 80,000 tickets, 65,000 will be given free of cost to those persons who show their contribution to society in the above mentioned subjects.

“Out of the remaining 15,000 tickets, 11,000 will be sold by the organiser to meet the expenditure of the programme and 4,000 have been kept for dignitaries,” Deo said, adding that several industrialists and political leaders are expected to come.

After hearing arguments of both the sides, the court said it cannot accept the contentions of the petitioners at this stage and hence, was not inclined to stay the concert.

“However, in the interest of justice we cannot throw away this petition. As a precautionary measure, the state government is directed to take an undertaking from the organiser that in future if the petition succeeds, then they (organiser) would pay the necessary entertainment duty,” Chief Justice Chellur directed.

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 organised by a company in 1996, stating in that case the high court had later ordered the organisers to deposit the entertainment duty in court.

To this, 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.”

The petition also challenged the MMRDA’s decision to grant 75 per cent concession on rentals, which amounts to almost Rs six crore.

The court then said it cannot interfere in this decision as it is the MMRDA’s discretion how much rent to levy.

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