Air India ex-ED in soup for stealing Jatin Das painting

Air India ex-ED in soup for stealing Jatin Das painting

An FIR has been registered against a former executive director of Air India for allegedly stealing a painting by renowned artist Jatin Das which was part of the airline's collection, the police said on Sunday.

The FIR follows an internal inquiry conducted by Air India, which found that Rohita Jaidka along with other unknown officers, persons stole the painting between 2004 and 2009.

During this time, Jaidka served as a general manager and an executive director (ED).

"The airline approached the police and an FIR was registered on November 11 against Jaidka and other unidentified persons," the police said.

The horizontal oil painting is titled 'Flying Apsara'. It was commissioned in 1991 by Air India.

The issue of the stolen painting came to light when Das, a Padma Bhushan awardee, wrote to Air India in June claiming that one of his paintings had gone missing and was available in the open market. The letter prompted the airline to launch an internal probe.

Das was alerted after an art curator, Pooja Acharya, contacted him to verify the authenticity of the work. Acharya was in touch with Sarabjit Singh, the person whom Jaidka was allegedly trying to sell the painting.

After the incident came to light, Jaidka returned the painting to the airline headquarters "in a torn condition" from a fake address in Noida, according to the FIR.

The Air India also said that in order to "cover up", Jaidka managed to arrange a replica of the painting and claimed she was selling the copy and not the original work.

Air India in its complaint pegs the value of the painting at Rs 25 lakh "as per evaluations by an art historian". Jatin Das has himself, however, refused to attach a value to the piece of art.

The airline has told the police that as per its records the painting was earlier displayed at Air India Maharaja lounge at Terminal-2 and Indira Gandhi International Airport.

It was later moved to Air India's office at Hansalaya Building, near Connaught Place around 2002. The records show that the painting was at this address in 2004 as well, "whereafter it appears to have been stolen between the years 2004-2009".

Padma Bhushan awardee Das had earlier said that "indifference, negligence and theft" were behind the painting going missing.

Air India's art collection includes stone sculptures dating back to the ninth century, woodwork, decorative friezes, and a collection of exquisite clocks.

But the most prized in its collection are some of the nearly 4,000 paintings that include works by stalwarts such as M F Husain, S H Raza, V S Gaitonde, K A Ara, Anjolie Ela Menon, Arpana Caur and B Prabha.

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox

Check out all newsletters

Get a round-up of the day's top stories in your inbox