Subhash Ghai loses Whistling Woods land

In a setback for filmmaker Subhash Ghai, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by his Mukta Arts Ltd challenging a Bombay High Court verdict cancelling the allotment of 20 acres of land in Goregaon for his film academy

An apex court bench of Justice HL Dattu and Justice CK Prasad, while dismissing the petition, said the application on the allotment of land that was in cold storage under three chief ministers was revived when Vilasrao Deshmukh became chief minister.The land was allotted with Deshmukh’s signatures on it, the court said. The court said the entire transaction was not transparent. “You are a great filmmaker. There are greater than you. The entire thing had to be transparent,” the court said while dismissing the petition by the Mukta Arts.

After the court’s judgment, Subhash Ghai said: “I respect the judiciary of my country. The Supreme Court has dismissed our appeal on the grounds that the Maharashtra government should have followed the proper governance to enter into a joint venture before running a school in the Film City. I suppose one must be cautious while dealing with the state government rather than being penalised after 10 years when heavy investment and losses are involved.”

“We will discuss our future course of action with our team of lawyers and wait for the government’s reaction to the honourable Supreme Court’s judgment,” he added. The apex court while pointing to the pace at which the entire process was revived and completed said that some people become blue eyed boys “all of a sudden” and the government land is given to them for a paltry sum. The court was told that the cost of the land, according to government auditor, was worth Rs 30 crore and according to a petitioner in the high court was more than Rs 100 crore and it was given for just for Rs 3 crore.

As the senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for the Mukta Arts, sought to describe the Ghai’s institute Whistling Woods as great idea, the court said that “everybody has a great idea. But they don’t have opportunity. If they have opportunity they would build great schools”. The high court on February 9 quashed the allotment of the land for Whistling Woods International, a joint venture between Mukta Arts and the Maharashtra Film, Stage and Culture Development Corp for a state-of-the-art film institute and research centre.

Mukta Arts and the joint Venture company had challenged the high court order by which it had directed it to return the 15.5 acres of land back to Maharashtra Film, Stage and Culture Development Corp and the remaining 4.5 acres to be returned next year after the end of the current batch. Rohtagi said that Mukta Arts was only interested in the institute it had set up, the court observed “somehow you got it now you want to protect it”. The court said that it was not saying anything as the petition by the chief minister Deshmukh was pending before it. The court said this when Rohtagi told the court that there was nothing clandestine in the entire transaction.