Giving a clean chit to Sharad Pawar, the Bombay high court on Tuesday said there is "nothing on record" to show that the Union Minister influenced the Maharashtra government's decision to exempt Indian Premier League matches from entertainment tax.
The division bench of Justices P B Majumdar and Anup Mohta also disposed of the PIL filed by Shiv Sena MLA Subhash Desai, seeking imposition of entertainment tax on the IPL, as the state government has recently decided to levy the tax on IPL as well as one-day international matches in future.
Desai had alleged that the state cabinet had decided in January to impose the tax, before this year's IPL season started, but the decision was not implemented because of NCP chief Sharad Pawar's association with the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
But, the court noted that there is "nothing on record to say that respondent No 5 (Pawar) influenced the decision".
The judges noted that exemption from entertainment tax (applicable to all sport events) was in force since 1964.
In a reprieve for the state government, the court also said that "it is not possible to say that tax was not collected with any ulterior motive" in the latest IPL season, as the decision to exempt sports matches dates back to 1964.
At an earlier hearing, the court had asked whether the code of conduct for ministers bars them from holding post in sports organisations, such as the BCCI.
Additional Solicitor General Darius Khambata had told the court that the code of conduct for union ministers does not have any bar on holding positions in sports organisations.
The court observed, with reference to this, that in certain situations there could be a conflict of interests.
If a finance minister, who is party to cabinet's decision to grant a tax exemption to a sports organisation, is also a member of the same organisation, "it may result into conflict of interest", it noted.
However, the judges maintained that they could not pass any order in this respect, and a decision as to whether the code of conduct be changed to prevent conflict of interest, must be "left to the wisdom of the authorities in charge of drafting it".
Desai's lawyer, advocate Balkrishna Joshi, argued that the court should direct collection of entertainment tax for this year's IPL too, but court said that such a retrospective order cannot be passed. The petition was disposed of.