Union Cabinet Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh Wednesday moved the Supreme Court challenging the “extremely grave strictures” against him by the Bombay High Court, while quashing the allotment of land to film-maker Subhash Ghai’s production house for setting up a state-of-the-art film institute.
The high court, in its Feb 9 verdict, quashed the joint venture agreement between the Maharashtra Film, Stage and Cultural Development Corporation and Ghai’s Mukta Arts for setting up Film Training and Research Institute-cum-Studio Complex on a 20-acre plot at Film City in Goregaon.
The court passed strictures against Deshmukh, holding him guilty of misusing his position as the then chief minister in facilitating the allotment of land that belonged to the Film Corporation to Mukta Arts.
Deshmukh “clearly misused his position as a chief minister”, and the role played by him in the transaction of allotment of the land was “deprecable”, the high court said.
It said that he was taking a “keen interest in the entire project and it is therefore difficult to accept the defence of innocence”.
Deshmukh, in his petition challenging the high court judgment and order, contended that “these findings constitute serious strictures and tantamount to a judicial finding of malice, bad faith, and misuse of office”.
Seeking interim stay of the judgment and the order, he contended that “not only are these findings unsustainable, they are contrary to the records placed before the court”.
On the question of law, his petition criticised the high court judgment, asking if it was permissible for the court to overlook almost everything on record and pursue an (wholly misdirected) inquiry restricted to what connection one individual had with the transaction/decision to the exclusion of everything and everyone else.
It queried whether as a matter of law, it was permissible for the high court to draw “purely speculative and/or conjectural findings of ‘misuse of public office’ on the basis to totally vague and/or unsubstantiated allegations…”
The petition said it was so when the high court had itself come to the conclusion that there was “no material on record to draw any inference of the existence of a quid pro quo.”
The joint venture agreement between the Film Corporation and Mukta Arts was executed Oct 24, 2000.