Bombay HC asks for verification of Whistling Woods land

MUMBAI: On a public interest litigation filed by one Rajendra Sontakke and four other agriculturists from Latur and Osmanabad, the Bombay High Court has issued a notice to the suburban collector for verification of land records pertaining to Whistling Woods, the film training academy based in Film City.

A division bench of chief justice Mohit Shah and justice Girish Godbole has asked the collector to keep records of the allotment ready by 2 August.

The PIL has alleged ‘gross abuse of power‘ by former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in allotting land. It alleges that it was Deshmukh who was primarily interested in the joint venture because of his son Riteish Deshmukh and, hence, 20 acres of land was allotted to the Subhash Ghai-promoted Whistling Woods International.

While going through the maps of Whistling Woods, chief justice Shah raised various questions about the development of the plot at Aarey Milk Colony and the Floor Space Index (FSI) used.

Whistling Woods counsel Prasad Dhakepalkar said that that they were allotted 20 acres of land. However, development was allowed on only 4 acres of the plot. "We can’t shoot films in classrooms. The open space is used for shooting purposes," he argued.

Maharashtra Film Stage and Cultural Development Corporation Limited (MFSCDCL) had entered into a joint venture with Mukta Arts to start Whistling Woods at an authorised share capital of Rs 200 million.

Mukta Arts was to put in Rs 170 million and MFSCDCL was to get the land allotted. MFSCDCL and Mukta Arts were to share equity of 15 and 85 per cent respectively.

Around 500 acres of land was managed and administered by the MFSCDC. Of this, 20 acres were allotted to set up a film training institute.

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