The Bombay high court on Thursday ordered filmmaker Subhash Ghai to return the 20 acres allotted to his film institute in Goregaon in 2000 and said then Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh “misused his official position” to allow the deal.
The court struck down a joint venture between the Maharashtra Film, Stage and Cultural Development Corporation and Ghai’s Mukta Arts that runs the Whistling Woods International institute.
Of the 20 acres, the state government was asked to immediately reclaim 14.5 acres of open land. The institute will have to return the remaining 5.5 acres after completing ongoing courses and shut down by July 2014.
The judges said it was unacceptable that Deshmukh, who is now union science and technology minister, had personally counter-signed the joint venture agreement as a “token of goodwill and at the spur of the moment”.
Ghai said he would challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court. Deshmukh didn’t respond to phone calls and text messages, but Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan hinted that the state might file an appeal.
The Congress could find it difficult to defend Deshmukh if the opposition launches an attack on him. Deshmukh quit as chief minister in 2008 in an unceremonious manner after the 26/11 terror attacks. He was rehabilitated at the Centre, but got into trouble over the Adarsh Society scam.