Bombay HC rescues 25 Husain paintings from possible damage

Agricultural body NAFED approached court for recovery of loan due from a company.

Mumbai: The Bombay high court has directed the deputy sheriff of Mumbai to store and preserve 25 paintings by celebrated painter M.F. Husain worth Rs 25 crore at the Fine Art Warehouse in Wadala after it was informed that the paintings could suffer damage and loss of valuation while being kept in the locker of a suburban private bank. The petitioner, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED), had approached the court for recovery of its loan amount of Rs 104 crore from a company out of which it had recovered a sum of Rs 73 crore through immovable property. NAFED was to recover the remaining amount from the sale of the paintings and hence sought that the paintings be moved out of the locker to ensure that they did not get damaged.

The order was passed by Justice G.S. Patel last week after hearing the contentions of NAFED in an arbitral award petition against Swarup Group of Industries after the latter failed to pay up Rs 104 crore that NAFED had loaned them in 2012. After the deputy sheriff told the court that the paintings were stored in a cupboard of IndusInd Bank Limited at Lokhandwala branch, the court observed that “this is an unsatisfactory state of affairs” as the paintings were not stored properly they may get damaged due to improper storage or result in degradation of value.

While directing the transfer of these paintings to Fine Art Warehouse in Wadala, the court rejected the proposition to move them to Jehangir Art Gallery, the National Gallery in Delhi or National Gallery Modern Art in Mumbai, as they were not equipped to offer proper warehousing services. The court said, “The works need to be maintained in an environment that is controlled for humidity and temperature, among other concerns. The deputy sheriff will, therefore, for the purpose of preservation of the property immediately contact the Fine Art Warehouse.”

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