Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was on Wednesday pulled up by the Supreme Court for giving 20 acres of land to film producer Subhash Ghai in 2004 for his film institute, saying he cannot treat anyone as a "blue-eyed boy" and bend or bypass rules.
"One cannot be treated as blue-eyed boy for which chief minister can bend or bypass rules to give away the land of the state," the bench said noting it was done for a paltry sum.
The sharp observations came from a bench of justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad while upholding the Bombay high court order quashing the 20 acre land allotted to Ghai's film institute in Filmcity in 2004 when Deshmukh, now a union minister, was the chief minister.
The apex court further said that they there is lack of transparency in the allotment of land as many CMs prior to Deshmukh had not cleared the project. "The state government has given land to its blue-eyed boy for a paltry sum of money," the bench said.
"You are a great film maker, but there are greater film makers also. Why you have been chosen? There must be transparency," the bench observed.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Ghai, pleaded that more than Rs 50 crore has already been invested in the institute, Whistling Woods and it should not be destroyed and submitted that he (Ghai) should at least be granted lease on the property.
The bench, however, was not convinced and said that he can participate in a fresh bidding process for the property. The apex court had earlier issued notices and sought response within four weeks from the petitioners on whose plea the high court had passed the verdict directing Ghai to return the land allotted for his film institute to the state government.
The high court's order had come 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.