New Delhi, Mar 23: The Supreme Court today refused to stay a Bombay High Court judgment making remarks against former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in a case involving allotment of 20 acre land to filmmaker Subhash Ghai's institute.
The apex court, however, said it will hear in detail the petition filed by Deshmukh, now a Union Minister, seeking expunging of remarks made by the high court in its February 9 judgment.
“We will hear in detail the petition (filed by Deshmukh) as it is not a case to be dismissed at threshold,” a bench of justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad said when Deshmukh's appeal was opposed by senior counsel Ram Jethmalani, who appeared for those challenging the allotment of land.
The bench issued notices and sought response within four weeks from the petitioners on whose plea the high court had passed the verdict directing filmmaker Subhash Ghai to return the land alloted for his film institute, Whistling Woods, back to the state government.
The apex court also issued notices to the Maharashtra government and the Maharashtra Film, Stage and Cultural Development Corporation along with Ghai's Mukta Arts, which were parties to the public interest litigation (PIL) in the high court.
While declining to stay the judgment vis-a-vis remarks against Deshmukh, the bench said “once this court has decided to hear the matter in detail there is no question of stay.”
Deshmukh had filed a petition against the Bombay High Court's order which made a scathing indictment that he had “misused his official position” as chief minister by showing “undue favours.”
The high court had given the order on a PIL by Rajendra Sontakke and four other agriculturists of Latur and Osmanabad districts alleging “gross abuse of power” by Deshmukh in allotting the land.
The land was alloted to Ghai's institute Whistling Woods pursuant to a May 30, 2004 joint venture agreement signed between his Mukta Arts and the Maharashtra Film, Stage and Cultural Development Corporation (MFSCDC).
Deshmukh, the then chief minister, was present when the agreement was signed and had also made an endorsement in the agreement as witness, the high court had observed.
The high court had noted that the joint venture was signed without any formal resolution passed by the Board of Directors of MFSCDC, without any valuation of the land in question and without following any rules or procedure.
The high court had also referred to a CAG report which stated that the land ought to have been valued at Rs 31.20 crores as opposed to the Rs three crores valuation done by MFSCDC.
The high court had also directed Ghai and Whistling Woods to vacate 14.5 acre of land immediately which shall be resumed by the state government and the remaining 5.5 acres, where the institute is constructed, would be taken over by the government on July 31, 2014, after all the ongoing courses at the film institute are completed.
The high court had also restrained Whistling Woods from granting admissions to students for courses which go beyond 2014.
It had also directed Ghai to pay a rent of Rs 5.3 crore annually from 2000 when the director entered into the joint venture with the government to start the film institute.