Foundation denies idols in its possession are stolen

‘It is pure imagination to claim they belong to T.N. temples’

January 22, 2019 12:49 am | Updated 07:37 am IST - CHENNAI

Sarabhai Foundation, a public charitable trust that runs a museum at Ahmedabad in Gujarat, has stoutly denied a lawyer’s claim that 36 idols, three bronze lamps and eight artefacts in its possession belonged to various Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu and that they were stolen properties.

In a counter affidavit filed before Justices R. Mahadevan and P.D. Audikesavalu on Monday, the foundation, represented by one of its trustees Ashok R. Mehta, said the claim was nothing but a figment of imagination of advocate ‘Elephant’ G. Rajendran, who had filed a case to retrieve the properties.

“The contents of paragraph 6 (of petitioner’s affidavit) are denied as false and fictitious. First, the petitioner has not submitted any document to suggest that the ownership of which idol vests with which Hindu temple in Tamil Nadu. Without these foundational facts, alleging that the idols are stole property is a farce.

“Secondly, there are no materials on record to substantiate the fact that these idols are 200 to 1,000 years old. Without these material sources, the allegations are nothing but a figment of petitioner’s pure and irrational imagination upon which no reliance can be placed,” the counter affidavit read.

Arguing on behalf of the foundation, instituted by Gautam Sarabhai (brother of Vikram Sarabhai who was considered father of India’s space programmes), senior counsel A. Ramesh said the petitioner could not file a writ petition straightaway without first representing his grievance before government authorities concerned.

‘Affidavit is proof’

On his part, Mr. Rajendran stated that he required no bigger proof than an affidavit filed by the foundation in the court in August last claiming to be in possession of the 36 idols.

It was only after The Hindu reported the contents of the affidavit in detail on August 14 that the advocate chose to file the present case.

That affidavit was filed by 94-year-old Gira Sarabhai, sister of the Sarabhai brothers, to quash a First Information Report (FIR) registered against it on March 2 on the charge of being in illegal possession of the idols Raja Raja Cholan and queen Nambiratiyar Logamatheviyar which were reportedly stolen from the Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur.

Accusing the Idol Wing CID officials of having forcibly taken away the two icons from the museum on May 29, Ms. Sarabhai claimed that Mr. Gautam Sarabhai was in possession of them since 1942 though it was the case of the prosecuting agency that the idols from Brihadeeswarar Temple were stolen only during the 1960s.

She asserted that the idols that the CID sleuths were looking for were not those which were in possession of the foundation. Yet, the officials took them away forcibly.

The nonagenarian also said her brother, an avid antique collector, had purchased as many as 36 icons (including the two that were taken away), three brass lamps and eight stone articles during 1940s.

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