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Can a minister be on a sports body, HC asks govt

Last updated on: April 26, 2010 14:42 IST

The Bombay High Court on Monday asked the Maharashtra government whether any "conflict of interest" arises if a sitting minister is part of BCCI, or of any other sport body for that matter.

Though reference was apparently to Union minister and former BCCI chief Sharad Pawar, the court did not name any individual, but asked the state to file a reply as to whether there was any 'code of conduct' for ministers in this regard.

The bench was hearing the PIL filed by Shiv Sena MLA Subhash Desai, alleging that the government is not collecting entertainment tax from Indian Premier League, despite deciding to levy the tax in January.

The court also asked the state to make it clear if any decision has been taken on this.

At the last hearing, division bench of Justices P B Majmudar and Rajesh Ketkar had sought the constitution of the cricket body.

On Monday, as the hearing began, the court grilled BCCI lawyer Raju Subramaniam on whether a minister could be a functionary of the cricket body.

"Would it be moral...Would a conflict of interest arise if a minister is a head of a sport association," the judges asked.

Subramaniam said that he could not comment on this, but BCCI constitution did not stop any minister from contesting its election.

The reply is to be filed before May 5. As to the issue of entertainment tax, BCCI lawyer said that if government levied it, the cricket body would pay up.

However, advocate Subramaniam also said that except for the final, semi final, and the play-off for the third position, tickets were not sold by BCCI or IPL, but by the franchisees, and BCCI would not be liable for tax owed by them.

Government lawyer, D Nalavade said that entertainment tax on all sport activities was waived by state in 1964.

"But government now intends to withdraw the exemption because these are not just sport activities," he said, adding that a policy was needed for all the sport events where "entertainment was a primary" element.

However, the judges remarked that now that IPL was over, it would be difficult to recover entertainment tax in retrospect.

"The damage that is done is unpardonable," the judges said.

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