In the present atmosphere of political turmoil over findings and observations made by CAG in its recent audit report based on land deals, two important court judgements were quick to catch the public eye. The Supreme Court refusal to stay Bombay High Court verdicts in the cases of the 230-acre Powai land being developed by Hiranandanis and the 20-acre plot given to noted filmmaker Subhash Ghai for a joint venture between the state run Maharashtra State Film & Stage Development Corporation and his Whistling Woods.
In both matters, the High Court rebuked the state and the way the land matters were dealt with. While Hiranandanis have approached HC to obey the verdict by constructing over 3,000 flats with the size of 40 and 80 sq m, Ghai has also decided to follow the court’s order that directs him to vacate the premises.
It must be recalled here that the Hiranandanis had, while the matter was being heard by the HC, argued that they had all the necessary permissions given by various authorities to develop the Powai land. But, the basic deviation from the agreement between the state, MMRDA, and Hiranandanis to construct affordable homes with the size of 40 and 80 sq m did not get the HC approval. According to the developer, he was granted permission from time to time that led to the present scenario where luxurious flats affordable to affluent classes came up with equally swank commercial developments.
But, the stand taken by the developers failed to find favour with the court, and the HC order said concerned officers from state authorities, who worked hand in glove with the builders, be taken to task. This has certainly caught the state government on the wrong foot as many of the officers who facilitated the creation of Hiranandani Gardens have got transferred and some have retired from service.
The Hiranandanis must have realised that manipulating the government system in connivance with powerful people in politics doesn’t keep them away for long from the clutches of the long arms of the law.
It’s not just the Hiranandanis. Many developers from Mumbai use their proximity to powerful politicians to seek favours and further their business interests. In good times such benedictions may help attain prosperity, but cannot avoid notoriety if the time changes. Today, people who helped the Hiranandanis have vacated their chairs as no job — be it of a minister or a position in bureaucracy — is permanent. People, who helped them, did their job for reasons best known to them and moved on. Even if an inquiry begins they will pass the buck to their colleagues, as has been the trend in the Adarsh housing society case, where politicians are saying that they relied on the bureaucracy and the babus have been arguing that whatever proposals they moved had approvals of their political bosses.
In the Whistling Woods case, Subhash Ghai, is now complaining that he feels cheated and one should think seriously before going for a joint venture with the government. But, as an ace director and alert citizen he should not have relied on an agreement with a state corporation, and should have insisted for a cabinet decision with foolproof agreement at Mantralaya level. Instead, he relied on the corporation and a signature by the then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh as a witness on the agreement.
It’s very difficult to believe that those who were present to grace the event were unaware of the fact that it was not the corporation but the state government that was the title holder of the Filmcity land and an NoC by revenue department and official endorsement by the state cabinet was essential to validate the agreement.
So, herein Ghai’s case it was not the state government but a corporation was dealing with him. In legal parlance the state cabinet is the government. The film city land issue never vetted by the cabinet so there is no point in complaining later.
So, while our political system seems to have failed us yet again, this is another moment to celebrate our judiciary, which as always has risen to the occasion.
The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY
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