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Secretary sack sets off Akademi row

New Delhi, Feb. 20: India’s most prestigious state-run art body has run into a controversy. Thanks to a Valentine’s Day sack order.

The row at Lalit Kala Akademi is over the suspension of its secretary Sudhakar Sharma. The organisation’s former acting chairperson says the suspension order was issued by the new chairperson before he assumed office.

The suspension came ahead of upcoming elections to its general council, another controversy has broken out on whether chairperson Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty issued the order before assuming office.

Sharma was suspended on corruption charges on February 14, hours after the Akademi’s reins of India’s most prestigious state-run art body passed to Kalyan Kumar Chakravarty who had earlier indicted the official in a probe.

The day Sharma was served the suspension order, artist K.R. Subbanna, who was acting chairperson till recently, quashed it.

Subbanna claims Chakravarty joined on February 15. The new chairperson says he took over on the 13th.

In his order, Subbanna noted that Chakravarty was appointed chairperson by the President of India on February 11 but did not assume charge till February 14. Subbanna’s contention is that he continued to be acting chairperson till the new chairperson took over.

“Today at 4.30pm, Shri Chakravarty called Shri Rajiv Gautam, assistant secretary, Lalit Kala Akademi… along with Shri Bisham Mirani, assistant secretary, Lalit Kala Akademi, to National Museum and forced him to sign the suspension order whereby Sudhakar Sharma, secretary, Lalit Kala Akademi, is supposed to be suspended from the post of secretary,” Subbanna wrote in the February 14 order quashing the suspension.

A copy of this order was marked to culture ministry secretary Sangita Gairola.

Chakravarty says he is an honorary chairperson and did not need to formally come to the Akademi to assume charge.

“I am an appointee of the President and not of Lalit Kala Akademi. Mr Subbanna’s tenure ended in December, he was officiating illegally. I had taken over on the 13th and sent the orders on the 14th. We are taking care of the order passed by Mr Subbanna,” Chakravarty said.

Asked whether Sharma was suspended based on his report prepared in 2011, Chakravarty said: “My report is just one of the reasons, there are many other things involved.”

Sharma had earlier been dismissed on December 2, 2011, by then chairperson Ashok Vajpeyi. Chakravarty, then a member of the Akademi general council, was chairperson of the probe committee constituted by Vajpeyi.

However, Sharma was reinstated by the culture ministry after the law department said no employee could be dismissed without being given a chance to defend himself.

On the day Sharma was suspended, Ramkrishna Vedala, regional secretary of Bhubaneswar centre, was appointed secretary.

The controversy has come ahead of elections to the Akademi general council in April. Nearly 69 members are elected for the general council and 15 for the executive board.