The Bombay High Court has directed the Deputy Sheriff of Mumbai to preserve 25 paintings by renowned painter MF Hussain as these are stored in a cupboard at a bank in Andheri.
Justice GS Patel passed the orders while hearing an execution application in an arbitration proceeding claimed by the National Agricultural Co Operative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed) following an arbitral interim award against respondents Swarup Group of Industries.
According to the award, it was mutually agreed upon by both parties that the respondents will pay Rs. 104.25 crore to claimant Nafed.
The mode of payment set out in the award was not cash, but it required transfer of various movable and immovable assets.
While an immovable asset worth Rs. 73 crore was secured to the claimant, 25 valuable art works by MF Hussain purchased by the respondents at a price of Rs. 1 crore each were also included in the award.
Noting that in “the most unsatisfactory state of affairs”, these 25 paintings were stored in a cupboard of a bank in the Andheri area, Justice Patel observed: “At some stage, arrangements will have to be made for a proper auction of these art works, with a reserve bid fixed, and in my view this best be done by a established Art Auction House, and not by the Deputy Sheriff, since Art Auctioneers are specialists in valuing art works and conducting such auctions. However, I have no manner of doubt that if left as they are in this improper storage at IndusInd Bank, these paintings and art works are likely to suffer damage or degradation in value. That is not in the interest of either side.”
Thus, the court decided that these paintings need to be maintained in an environment that is controlled for humidity and temperature, among other concerns, and directed the Deputy Sheriff to contact one fine art warehouse at Wadala for the purpose of preservation of the property.
Also, Justice Patel directed Nafed to pay for the warehousing charges that the Deputy Sheriff will incur in the process. This is on the understanding that these costs will have to be recovered from the sale proceeds of the art works.
Although the matter will be listed on Tuesday for further hearing, in an order dated April 26 the Fine Arts Warehouse has been granted permission to inspect the art works in Andheri.
Read the Orders here.