Raising questions over "conflict of interest" if a minister is a member of a cricket body, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed impleading the Union Government in a PIL seeking levy of entertainment tax on Indian Premier League matches and allowed making Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar a party to the case.
A division bench of Justices P B Majmudar and R G Ketkar, while hearing the PIL filed by Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai seeking a direction to the Maharashtra government to recover entertainment tax from IPL, asked the petitioner to make Pawar a party if he wants to make allegations against him.
"If a minister holds a post in a cricket association, and the state cabinet is to decide on granting some exemption to the association...perhaps conflict of interest may arise," the bench observed.
"This is a very important issue," the bench said, seeking "assistance" of the Additional Solicitor General, who represents the Union, on this.
The court observed that "prima facie this activity (IPL matches) is covered under entertainment tax. If there is no exemption, then state has no option but to recover it".
It sought the Centre's view on whether any "conflict of interest" arose if a minister is a member of a cricket body.
According to the petitioner, the state cabinet decided in January this year to impose entertainment tax on IPL matches, but the decision was never implemented, causing revenue loss to the cash-strapped government.
Board of Control for Cricket in India's senior counsel Raju Subramaniam clarified that Sharad Pawar currently had no connection with the Indian Cricket Board or the IPL, though he headed the apex cricketing body two years ago.
However, advocate Joshi alleged that since the finance portfolio in the state government was with NCP's Sunil Tatkare, the decision not to levy the tax was "politically motivated" as Pawar is the NCP chief.
The state government has maintained that no decision has been taken on whether to impose entertainment tax on IPL though the issue was "discussed" in a cabinet meeting.
The court also allowed the petitioner to implead former IPL chairman Lalit Modi and incumbent Chirayu Amin in the case.
In the last hearing, court had sought a reply from the state as to whether any code of conduct existed for ministers for becoming members of sports bodies.
State lawyer Dhairyashil Nalavade said he has sought information from law and justice department on this and the "reply is awaited".
Nalavade had also said during the last hearing that sports events, in general, were exempted from entertainment duty since 1964, but in view of a new format such as IPL, government will reconsider the exemption.
The case will now be heard on June 22.