Painting theft: HC asks AI to consider restoring retiral benefits to accused

Painting theft: HC asks AI to consider restoring retiral benefits to accused

PTI photo for representation.

A former woman executive director of Air India, accused of stealing a painting by renowned artist Jatin Das which was part of the airline's collection, has moved the Delhi High Court challenging the national carrier's decision to suspend her post-retirement benefits.

Rohita Jaidka, who retired in January 2011, said she was undergoing cancer treatment and sought restoration of her post-retirement entitlements including medical benefits which were stopped by Air India through its August 3, 2017 letter.

The oil painting - titled 'Flying Apsara' - was commissioned in 1991 by Air India.

Justice Sunil Gaur disposed of the petition directing Air India to consider the woman's legal notice while treating it as a representation and pass a speaking order within four weeks.

The court also asked the airline to convey its fate to Jaidka so that she may avail of the remedies as available in law.

Advocate Karan Nagrath, appearing for Jaidka, said a legal notice was sent by her to the airline and its chairman on April 6 after a representation made on August 14 last year. But there was no response from their side.

The woman sought revocation of temporary suspension of her privileges by recalling the airline's August 3 order.

"The woman has an impeccable and blemish-free career spreading over nearly four decades and her dedication towards work was well appreciated by the company/Air India... They have arbitrarily and unlawfully suspended the post-retirement benefits of the woman," the petition said.

An internal inquiry was conducted by the airlines against her following which an FIR was lodged in November last year against her and other unidentified persons for allegedly stealing the painting between 2004 and 2009.

During the period, Jaidka served as general manager and executive director of Air India.

She was granted anticipatory bail by the Patiala House Court earlier this month.

The matter had come to light when Jatin Das, a Padma Bhushan awardee, wrote to Air India in June last year 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.

While Air India, in its complaint, pegged the value of the painting at Rs 25 lakh "as per evaluations by an art historian", Jatin Das has refused to attach a value to his artwork.

Das had blamed "indifference, negligence and theft" as reasons for 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 some of the most prized collections include works by M F Husain, S H Raza, V S Gaitonde, K A Ara, Anjolie Ela Menon, Arpana Caur and B Prabha.