Filmmaker Subhash Ghai has refuted the allegations that the land for his training institute was allotted by former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh at a throwaway price to promote his son Riteish. His institute, Whistling Woods International Limited, is located in Goregaon. Ghai had filed an affidavit in the Bombay high court in reply to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Rajendra Sontakke and four other agriculturists from Latur and Osmanabad alleging “gross abuse of power” by Deshmukh in allotting land.
In the affidavit, Ghai has refuted the allegation that Riteish’s profession had any influence on the proposal for the institute being passed without calling for competitive bids.
“The joint venture agreement was executed on October 24, 2000. The first film of the son of respondent 7 [Vilasrao Deshmukh] was released in 2003, that too through another producer… There was no professional relationship [with Deshmukh] till 2005,” the affidavit said. Riteish has worked for Mukta Arts in Apna Sapna Money Money, which had released in September 2005.
Ghai's affidavit pointed out that two similar petitions were dismissed by the high court. “The petition, purportedly filed as a PIL, appears to be a politically motivated as it seeks to proceed strenuously against Vilasrao Deshmukh being the former CM,” the affidavit said.
Vilasrao was chief minister of Maharashtra from October 18, 1999, to January 26, 2003, and from November 16, 2004, to December 9, 2008.
Questioning the bonafides of the petitioners, Ghai, in his affidavit, has asked why the agriculturists from Latur, from where Deshmukh had contested the Lok Sabha elections, would be interested in the property belonging to the Maharashtra Film Stage and Cultural Development Corporation Limited (MFSCDC) in Mumbai. The 500 acres of land, which is managed and administered by the MFSCDC, shows the title in favour of the state’s cultural department. Of this, 20 acre was allotted to set up a film-training institute.
Mukta Arts, Ghai’s production house, submitted a report to MFSCDC in March 2000 to set up a training institute with the cost requirements. Within a month, the MFSCDC informed Mukta Arts that the proposal had “in-principle been accepted”.
The land still belongs to the MFSCDC and Whistling Woods pumped in Rs 70 crore without any intention of profiteering, the affidavit said. There was no need to call for bids because the proposal was accepted by the board of MFSCDC “in the interest of the public and film industry”. The petition had attached a report compiled by the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) that pointed out irregularities in the allotment of lands to Whistling Woods and to Vilasrao Deshmukh Foundation in Latur during the period when Deshmukh was CM.
In December 2009, the HT had reported parts of the CAG report, which highlighted the alleged irregularities in allotment of plots for these two projects.