To explain failure to produce records relating to original registration

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Friday directed the Director of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to appear in person before the court on February 8 to explain the failure to produce records relating to the original registration of some paintings of Raja Ravi Varma in possession of three persons.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice J. Chelameswar and Justice P.R. Ramachandra Menon issued the directive on a writ petition filed by Archana Narayanan, a lawyer and great grand-niece of Raja Ravi Varma, seeking a CBI probe into the disappearance of certain original paintings from the State government's custody.

The court noted that despite an order, the original records relating to the registration were not placed before it. The Union government was not able to explain the reason for not producing the original records.

The Bench added that no material was placed before the court either admitting or denying the fact of registration of the paintings.

The court also issued notice to the National Museum Institute of Art, Conservation and Musicology, New Delhi.

‘No licence'

The ASI had said in a statement that a Bangalore-based fine art auction house, which recently put up four Ravi Varma paintings for auction in New Delhi, did not possess the mandatory licence required under the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act for dealing in antiquities.

It said that under Section 13 of the rules, when a person transferred the ownership, control or possession of registered antiquities to another, he or she should intimate the jurisdictional registering officer about it. In this case, neither the owners nor the auctioneering firm had done so.

The affidavit said the auction house was feared to have many other antiques and art treasures and was selling them without authority.

The statement said the auctioneer was proceeded against and the CBI was directed to take action to unearth the antiques and art treasures.

The petitioner alleged that records with the Kilimanoor Palace showed that over 75 paintings were handed over to the government. But only 55 were displayed at the Sree Chitra Art Gallery in Thiruvananthapuram, which is managed by the Directorate of Museums and Zoo.

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