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Land win for Pataudis

Bhopal, July 17: The wedding is in the air, but there was no haze about the verdict.

At a time preparations are on for Saif Ali Khan’s “year-end wedding” with Kareena Kapoor, the family of the late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi has won a case against the Madhya Pradesh government that could fetch them crores of rupees as compensation.

The Jabalpur bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court yesterday ordered the Bhopal collector to demarcate 14 acres and compensate within two months the family for their land the government had taken over.

Part of the prime land was used for constructing the four-lane “VIP Road”, a 3km stretch many consider to be Bhopal’s Marine Drive as it overlooks the picturesque Upper Lake.

Justice A.K. Srivastava’s directive came on a petition by the late nawab’s wife Sharmila Tagore, son Saif and daughters Soha and Saba. Their counsel, Naman Nagrath, said the government had not compensated the family.

Bhopal-based lawyer Sajid Ali said if the order was implemented, the family could get anything over Rs 300 crore. “It is a prime and prized land,” Ali said, adding that the current market rate in and around the Upper Lake was around Rs 6,000 a square foot.

Urban administration minister Babulal Gaur, the man behind the construction of the road in 1990, said it was “true” that the government had “lost the case” to the Pataudis. “We had shifted a large number of encroachers…. From what I remember, there were no claims and demands for compensation then,” Gaur, a former chief minister, added.

Gaur said the government could honour the high court directive or move the Supreme Court. “Personally I feel there is little option but to pay up but that is for the chief minister to decide,” he said.

About the compensation amount, Gaur disagreed with Ali’s speculation, saying: “From what I understand, the Pataudis will be paid at the prevailing rate in 1990.”

In Mumbai, Saif today told PTI: “I have not fixed a date for the wedding yet. It is going to be a year-end wedding.” Sharmila and Soha had earlier announced the wedding would be on October 16.