MUMBAI: In a setback to Bollywood director Subhash Ghai and an embarrassment to Union Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, the Bombay High Court has directed Ghai to return the 20 acres allotted to him by the state government for setting up a film institute, Whistling Woods International, here.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Girish Godbole directed Ghai to return the land along with the structures constructed to the state government.
A public interest litigation (PIL) challenged the allotment of land by then Chief Minister Deshmukh in 2000. The PIL was filed by a group of people from Deshmukh’s hometown in Latur and neighbouring Osmanabad.
The court found it objectionable that Deshmukh had misused his position as the Chief Minister by personally signing an illegal agreement with Whistling Woods International to hand over the land. The court has directed the state government to take immediate possession of 14.5 acres. The remaining 5.5 acres, on which the structures of the film institute stands, would be transferred to the state government by 2014.
The court has given two-year time to Ghai for winding up the present courses and also directed Whistling Woods to refrain from hiring new students for courses whose term may span beyond 2014 deadline given by the court.
There was more shock for him as the court directed Whistling Woods to cough up `5.3 crore annually since 2000 as rent towards
occupying the 20 acres plot.
In a statement 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 to use the land for building a world-class Film and Media Institute, which was challenged by a PIL in court after 10 years. We hope we will get full justice from the Supreme Court.”
The court has stayed its order for eight weeks so that the affected parties may approach the Supreme Court.