Is it payback time for Shah Rukh Khan? Has the superstar become a victim of a witch-hunt launched by vindictive government officials? That’s what Bollywood sources seem to believe after the actor was served a show-cause notice by the IT Department for allegedly committing a criminal offence by acquiring 19,000 square metres of agricultural land for his Alibaug bungalow Déjà vu Farms.
Remember the fracas the Bollywood Badshah got into on his 52nd birthday last November with Peasants and Workers Party of India general secretary Jayant Patil? It happened at the Gateway of India. SRK’s yacht, that was waiting to take him to Alibaug for the weekend bash, apparently blocked Patil from sailing to Alibaug himself. Patil might have been unknown to the Bollywood superstar. But the PWP general secretary is a big fish in Alibaug. He is the chairman of the Raigad District Central Cooperative Bank whose HQ is based in Alibaug. And not the kind of man to be kept waiting.
But Patil waited in the throng of screaming and jostling SRK fans at the Gateway jetty, his impatience and irritation mounting every minute, while his yacht kept honking and hoping SRK’s dreamboat would make way for the Alibaug resident. Finally, Patil stormed down the jetty, hopped onboard SRK’s yacht from which he nimbly boarded his own boat that was waiting alongside, and sailed away. But just before pulling out, Patil shouted out to SRK, “You think you have bought over Alibaug?” Subsequently, Patil who was still chaffing told the media that he would soon bring up all the controversies surrounding SRK’s Alibaug bungalow in the Maharashtra Assembly.
The major allegation against the Bollywood superstar is that he applied for permission to purchase land for agriculture but constructed a super luxury bungalow there instead. Alibaug activist Surendra Dhavale complained that Shah Rukh, his wife Gauri, a company (Deja Vu Farms Pvt. Ltd), that company’s CEO, and other unknown individuals and public servants used forged papers while acquiring the plot. “We would like to highlight to the Chief Minister and cabinet ministers that a large number of violations using forged documents are being done by celebrities and rich persons at Alibaug, giving a bad name to the region,” Patil told the media. He also called for an investigation of “all the concerned officials involved in the clearance of the SRK file”.
However, rising to the actor’s defence was Mahendra Dalvi, a member of the Alibaug panchayat and a Shiv Sena worker married to the sarpanch who cleared the sale of the plot to SRK. Dalvi said, “Shah Rukh Khan is a nice man and has not done anything illegal.” He added that he wasn’t aware if the chartered accountant Moreshwar Ajgaonkar, chosen to acquire the plot, was a farmer or not, but said, “Moreshwar had credential documents and 7×12 (an authentic document that proves an individual is a farmer) in hand. These documents were verified and cleared by local district officers. Therefore, the agriculture plots were given to Moreshwar who was also a close confidant of Shah Rukh Khan.” Raigad Collector Dr. Vijay Suryavanshi, too, said Moreshwar’s 7×12 had been found to be valid.
Yet, a case has been registered under the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act and the IT Department has provisionally attached the actor’s Alibaug property. SRK, who was slapped with a show cause notice for criminal offence, has been given 90 days to reply. Sources say the accusation, if proved, can result in seven years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine valued at 25 per cent of the property’s value.