Filmmaker Ghai lands in trouble

Court orders surrender of land on which acting school is built

The Bombay High Court, on Thursday, asked Bollywood filmmaker Subhash Ghai, to surrender the land on which his acting institute Whistling Woods International Film School is built, tacitly also putting Maharashtra’s former chief minister (now Union Science and Technology Minister) Vilasrao Deshmukh also in docks.

The much-publicised films and television institute nestling in a sprawling 20 acre plot in the idyllic, north-western Goregaon forest belt where Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagari aka Film City is also located, has been dogged by controversy right from its inception when Deshmukh during his tenure as the chief minister of Maharashtra, cleared the proposal despite objections and allegations of “manipulation of land documents.”

PIL filed by 5 farmers

The court hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by five farmers from Latur and Osmanabad districts, ordered Ghai and Mukta Arts—the parent body of the institute to stop granting fresh admissions to students in courses that may span beyond 2014.

The order further instructed the state government to take over 14.5 acre of the land immediately and the remaining 5.5 acre by July 31, 2014.

The petitioners led by Rajendra Sontakke had alleged that former chief minister had misused his “powers as chief minister while allotting the land,” to get the project cleared for Ghai's Mukta Arts in 2006.

Justices Mohit Shah and Girish Godbole also ordered Ghai and Mukta Arts to pay a rent  of Rs 5.3 crore, calculating it from the year 2000 when the filmmaker along with the state  cultural department promoted a joint venture to start the institute.

The court has however granted a time-period of eight weeks, permitting the filmmaker to approach the Supreme Court.  Meanwhile, on Thursday, Ghai issued a press statement: “We respect the High Court judgment and we will appeal to the Supreme Court for our lawful rights.

We are at no fault and have done nothing wrong. We had a legal joint venture in 2002 with Film City to use the land for building a world-class film and media institute which was challenged by a PIL in court after 10 years, and we hope, we’ll get full justice from the Supreme Court.”

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