Filmmaker Subhash Ghai’s Whistling Woods International Limited (WWIL) is facing trouble in Andhra Pradesh as well with the Comptroller and Auditor General rapping the State government over allotment of 20.10 acres of prime land to the institute in total violation of the rules.
Mr. Ghai, who suffered a setback in the Supreme Court over a similar land deal in Maharashtra, is locked in a legal tangle in the Andhra Pradesh High Court as well over the land allotment.
The CAG in its latest report on land allotments in Andhra Pradesh, related to the Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy government tenure, found fault with the allotment of land for WWIL “in violation of AP Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Rules 1960,” which prohibits alienation of lands forming part of historical sites.
Based on a writ petition filed by a private person, the AP High Court had in January 2010 suspended the state government’s order (dated August 19, 2009) virtually gifting 20.10 acres of land to Mr. Ghai.
The case is pending disposal even as the state government is set to review the allotment in the light of the High Court order as well as the CAG’s observations, official sources in the Revenue Department said.
The land allotted to WWIL in survey Nos. 173 and 178 at Ibrahimbagh village under Golconda mandal in Hyderabad district was adjacent to a protected monument (Premamati Mosque).
“While the market value of the land was assessed by the Hyderabad district Collector at Rs 4.84 crore per acre, the government allotted the land at Rs 2 crore per acre. The lease rent was fixed at 0.2 per cent of the market value at which the land was allotted (Rs 2 crore per acre) for the first three years.”
“The allotment was made through APIIC for establishing a world—class training institute of film, television, animation and media arts. This was followed by a lease agreement in October 2009, between APIIC and WWIL for allotment of 17.01 acres to WWIL for a tenure of 66 years, renewable for a further period of 30 years,” the CAG said in its report.
From the fourth year onwards, the lease rent was to be enhanced to one per cent of the market value. Further, the agreement allowed WWIL to exercise an option to purchase the land at a concessional rate of Rs 2 crore per acre after ten years, duly adjusting the lease rentals paid by that time.
“The Government, thus, gave undue benefit to WWIL both in terms of concession in charging half the actual market value of the land and the option given to it for purchasing the land ten years down the line at the same rate irrespective of appreciation of land value. Further, allotment of land in a protected area for commercial purposes violated Government rules.”
In fact, audit scrutiny revealed that at the time of alienating the land, government had already decided to sign an MoU with the Islamic Republic of Iran for taking up the restoration and conservation of the monuments adjacent to this land,” the CAG noted.