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HC raps govt over fakes

The chief justice of Calcutta High Court, Jaynarayan Patel, expressed surprise on Friday that the state government had not yet taken any measures in the case of 20 alleged Rabindranath Tagore paintings that were displayed at the Government College of Art and Craft from February 27 to March 8, 2011.

The exhibits were declared fakes in a report submitted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to the high court on November 25, 2011.

The exhibition was organised by Dipali Bhattacharya, then principal of the college, who retires from service on October 31. R. Siva Kumar, a Kala Bhavan professor at Visva-Bharati, had pronounced the paintings fakes after seeing their digital images and apparently warned Bhattacharya against holding the exhibition.

Chief Justice Patel told government pleader Ashok Banerjee that the high court had not restrained the state government from taking any steps in the matter. Banerjee submitted that it (exhibiting “fake” Tagores) was a “heinous crime” and should be dealt with “properly”.

The division bench comprising Chief Justice Patel and Justice Joymalya Bagchi, which was hearing the petition filed by sculptor Tapas Sarkar that prompted the court to order the ASI probe, adjourned the hearing till after the Puja vacation, which ends on November 16. The bench directed the government to inform the high court at the next hearing about its stand on the matter and what steps it proposes to take.

Earlier, former art college principal Bhattacharya and Aniruddh Chari, who identified himself as an art critic, had filed petitions in the court, each pleading to be added as a party to the case.

Counsel Kausik Chanda, appearing for sculptor Sarkar, submitted that the petitions had been filed to delay the proceedings.

Chari’s advocate submitted that his client intended to challenge the ASI report. To this, Chanda submitted that according to Section 24 of the National Art Treasure and Antiquities Act 1972, the decision of the director-general of the ASI was final, and as such, there was no scope to reopen the issue.

Jayanta Mitra, the advocate for Jogen Chowdhury, who had added himself as a party to the case, submitted that his client wanted to take back the painting he had bought at the exhibition or it may be destroyed if it is a fake. The paintings, which were on display, are in the custody of a special officer appointed by the high court.