While hearing the public interest litigation (PIL) alleging largesse by former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Bombay high court on Monday tersely reminded the petitioners how the Supreme Court had recently cancelled allotment of a plot of land granted to former skipper Sourav Ganguly in Kolkata.
The PIL was filed by Rajendra Sontakke and four other agriculturists from Latur and Osmanabad alleging “gross abuse of power” by former chief minister in allotting land to two projects — filmmaker Subhash Ghai’s Whistling Woods International Limited in Goregaon and Vilasrao Deshmukh Foundation in Latur.
The division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Girish Godbole was hearing in this matter.
Counsels for the petitioners, senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani and advocate Bhushan Mhadik, argued that Deshmukh had extended undue favour while allotting land to Ghai’s film institute and also to a foundation in his hometown. Advocate general Ravi Kadam said that a committee had been formed to look into the agreement between the government and the Whistling Woods.
Senior advocate Prasad Dhakepalkar and advocate Simil Purohit, who were representing Ghai and Mukta Arts, said that they have not benefited from the deal.
“We (Mukta Arts) just wanted to start a world-class film institute. Forget about profit, we have pumped in Rs70 crore for setting up and running the institute,” said Dhakepalkar, adding, the land still belongs to the government; Mukta Arts bears the burden while the government enjoys 15% share.
Maharashtra Film Stage and Cultural Development Corporation Limited had entered into a joint venture with Mukta Arts to start Whistling Woods over 20 acres of land and at authorised share capital of Rs20 crore.
The PIL has alleged that it was Deshmukh was primarily interested in the joint venture because of his son Ritesh Deshmukh.
The allotment of 3.56 lakh sq m to Vilasrao Deshmukh Foundation Latur in 2001 has also been challenged stating that it was awarded without calling for competitive bids.