Subhash Ghai asked to return land given for film institute

The Bombay High Court has directed filmmaker Subhash Ghai to hand over the land allotted for his film institute, Whistling Woods International, located in Filmcity, Goregaon.

“In the interest of justice, we direct respondent number 3 and 4 (Ghai and Whistling Woods) to vacate 14.5 acre area immediately which shall be resumed by the state government. The remaining 5.5 acre where the institute is constructed shall be taken over by the government on July 31, 2014 by when all the ongoing courses at the film institute shall be completed,” a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Girish Godbole, said.

The Court has also restrained Whistling Woods from granting admissions to students for courses which will go beyond 2014.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Rajendra Sontakke and four others from Latur and Osmanabad districts alleging “gross abuse of power” by former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in allotting the land.

The ruling comes as an embarrassment for Vilasrao Deshmukh, now the Union Science and Technology Minister, since the land was allotted to Subhash Ghai in the year 2000, during Deshmukh’s tenure as the chief minister of Maharashtra.

The filmmaker has been directed to pay a rent of Rs 5.3 crore annually since year 2000 when he entered into a joint venture with the State Government to start the film institute.

The bench has, however, stayed its order for a period of eight weeks to permit Ghai to approach the Supreme Court.

Reacting to the court order, Subhash Ghai said: “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 and us to use the land for building a world class Film and Media Institute which was challenged by a PIL in court after 10 yrs and we hope we will get full justice from the Supreme Court.”

Whistling Woods International provides education in technical and creative aspects of filmmaking and television.

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