Coldplay can play but will have to pay for Mumbai concert

Updated: Nov 18, 2016, 11:02 IST | Vinay Dalvi and Gaurav Sarkar

In light of a recent PIL filed against the state for granting tax exemption to the concert, HC refuses to stay show but directs organisers to give undertaking promising to pay entertainment tax

A file pic of British band Coldplay during a concert in London
A file pic of British band Coldplay during a concert in London

In response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by activist Anjali Damania and businessman Hemant Gavande in the Bombay High Court on Wednesday, Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice Mahesh Sonak yesterday ruled that the Global Citizen India concert would go ahead as planned, but only after the state government secured an undertaking from the organisers that they would pay entertainment tax as per the Bombay Entertainment Duty Act, 1923, if the court directed so.

The HC sought an undertaking after the petitioners claimed that the organisers were from Delhi and that there was no guarantee that they could pay.

Why the charity?
The PIL challenged the state government’s right to waive off entertainment duty on the concert, as, according to the petitioners, the tickets were being sold at exorbitant prices, thus making the concert not fall under the category of a ‘charity’ event. The PIL also questioned why the MMRDA was not charging rent from the organisers for the venue — BKC MMRDA grounds; according to the petitioners, this exception was a first of its kind.

The petitioners, through senior counsel Uday Warunjikar, added that under the Act exemption from entertainment duty can be granted only for shows or programmes organised for charitable or educational purposes. Damania citied example of a 1996 Michael Jackson show organised by Wizcraft, for which the HC had ordered the organisers to deposit the duty in court.

The organisers, however, have claimed that they will be using the money for philanthropic purposes.

Preferential treatment?
“When we had asked for the MMRDA grounds in 2011 for the Anna Andolan (a rally during corruption crusader Anna Hazare’s movement), we were not granted any kind of exemption,” said Damania, “They (MMRDA) directed us to shell out Rs 7 lakh for the three-day andolan. We had approached the HC, but didn’t get relief there either. That was a movement for the country... it is unfair that a British band gets preference over it.

“Our concern is that if you are selling tickets as well as generating sponsorship and selling telecast rights, there should be clarity on what is the quantum of funds generated, how much of it is going to charity, and how much tax has been paid. If money has been raised through sponsorship and ticket revenue, then why deny the state of its income by not paying the entertainment tax? We are saying let the event happen but pay your dues.”

mid-day tried to reach the event’s organisers, but no one was available for comment.

State speak
Acting advocate general Rohit Deo, who appeared for the state government, submitted in court that the event was to create awareness among youngsters, and educate them, which was among the 17 goals of the United Nations. Out of the 80,000-odd tickets, 65,000 would be given free to those who have been contributing to the society, and only 11,000 would be sold with 4,000 for dignitaries, he added.

The idea
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended a Coldplay event in Central Park, New York, the central tourism department had mooted a proposal for a similar event in BKC. In August 2016, in a meeting chaired by the Maharashtra Chief Minister, the proposal was discussed. Modi as well as several senior BJP leaders are likely to attend the concert on Saturday.

45%
Entertainment tax due on the total ticket revenue

75%
MMRDA’s discount to the event organisers on the rent

1.5 Lakh
Number of people the ground can accommodate

Rs 20k
Starting price of concert tickets

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