ACTOR AND activist Shabana Azmi’s annual charity fashion show has come under the lens with the Maharashtra government threatening to initiate action against her NGO, Mizwan Welfare Society (MWS). A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India report has said the conditions imposed while waiving entertainment duty for two fashion shows organised by the NGO in 2011 and 2012 were violated.
Since August 2015, when CAG flagged the issue, the Mumbai Suburban Collector’s office has issued a number of notices to MWS seeking recovery of entertainment duty.
The Indian Express has accessed an official representation by the actor to Maharashtra’s Revenue Minister Eknath Khadse, dated September 22, 2015, in which she offered to pay the “basic entertainment duty (without accumulated interest) if the government was unwilling to modify or waive off these conditions.”
On Monday, the actor, who is in the US, told The Indian Express over the telephone, “The payment will be made immediately after I reach Mumbai on April 20.”
Azmi said: “I raised the issue with the Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) in the first week of March, where we reiterated that we would be willing to pay the basic amount while seeking a waiver of the interest charged. The CM said that he’ll go through the entire issue before taking a call. We have been waiting to hear from the government.”
The NGO was founded by her father, late Kaifi Azmi, and derives its name from his birthplace, Mizwan in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh.
“MWS raised sponsorships of Rs 84 lakh in 2011 and Rs 52 lakh in 2012 (from the fashion shows), “ CAG said.
While the law states that “any payment made by way of sponsorship amount for a programme that is organised only for invitees without sale of tickets attracts entertainment duty”, records show that for both the occasions, the Maharashtra government granted exemption to MWS. But some mandatory conditions were imposed.
“MWS was required to deposit Rs 21 lakh in 2011 and Rs 13 lakh in 2012… as security deposit… The proceeds were to be spent only in the state of Maharashtra,” said CAG, observing that some conditions weren’t met.
The government’s latest notice to the NGO, issued on December 1, 2015, calculated the amount payable by MWS as Rs 74 lakh, which includes the interest accumulated over the years.
“We were initially told that a certain percentage of the money raised would have to be used in Maharashtra… I was unaware that the entire money raised must be used in the state itself,” said Azmi on Monday.
“It was only later that we learnt that the bylaws applicable to MWS disallow utilisation of the money raised by the NGO outside Uttar Pradesh… We made a representation to the Collector’s office, and were informally told that till such time that the donations were used for the uplift of the poor, there would be no problem,” she said.
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