Petitioner challenges government’s move to provide additional financial aid to biennale

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court has asked the government to inform the court about the status of the vigilance probe into the allegation of misappropriation of government funds by the Kochi Biennale Foundation.

The directive was issued by the Bench comprising Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice C.K. Vinod Chandran on a petition filed by G. Ajith Kumar, secretary, Lantern Fine Arts, challenging the conduct of the Kochi Biennale.

In the petition, he also sought directive to expedite the probe. The petitioner also challenged the government’s move to provide additional financial assistance to the Biennale Foundation. The state had initially handed over Rs. 5 crore to the foundation. It said that the government has yet to complete the Vigilance probe as recommended by the inspection wing of the Finance Department.

The idea of the biennale was mooted by two artists from Kerala - Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu - with the goal to start an international platform for contemporary art in India, the petitioner pointed out. The Biennale Foundation was registered under the Indian Trust Act, 1882.

This was done just before the proposal for the biennale was submitted. There was no Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the government and the Kochi Biennale Foundation, according to the petitioner

“By utilizing the government fund, the trustees were in fact keen to expand their own personal activities, but no measures were initiated to chalk out any programme aiming at the enrichment of the art scene in Kerala,” the petitioner contended.

Based on the recommendation by the inspection wing of the Finance Department, the government ordered a Vigilance inquiry on November 28 last year. It decided to withdraw government nominees from the foundation.

“While sanctioning Rs. 5 crore, the government had ordered constitution a high-level advisory committee comprising eminent personalities from art, culture and tourism, but it was rejected by the foundation,” the petition said. The petitioner further sought the directive to restrain the state from providing additional financial assistance to the Biennale Foundation.

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