The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Director of the city’s Bhau Daji Lad museum Tasneem Mehta are locked in a fresh conflict with the civic body’s administration having instructed its legal department to examine the agreement signed with Mehta and to work on terminating the contract with her after finding several violations.
The corporation has already ordered a freeze on funding to the museum and now plans to issue a show cause notice to Mehta.
A presentation on the various violations committed by management of the museum was made by the civic administration at a meeting of group leaders of the BMC. The norms mandate an authenticity verification – a check of artefacts and other exhibits in the museum – which is supposed to be conducted once every three years.
But according to the BMC, this as well as the annual audit, had not been carried out. Nor were advertisements issued for recruitment of staff members who were appointed without taking approval from the municipal commissioner, the group leaders were told at the meeting on Thursday.
The BMC administration has also claimed that several notices seeking audit records were sent to Mehta by the Municipal Comptroller and Auditor but there was no response. The BMC has also taken objection to INTACH allegedly placing their boards at seven locations in the museum which it says is not permitted.
A senior civic official has alleged that the agreement signed earlier with the management favoured one party over the other.
“The agreement is lopsided and it is amazing how such a huge property was signed off to the trusts,” said the official.
A senior civic official said, “There have been several breaches on the part of INTACH which need to be addressed. We will not release any further fund without conducting an audit of the funds that have been used. We will be issuing a show cause notice for the breaches committed by them as noted by the administration. The legal department has been instructed to examine the agreement and decide if and how the contract will be terminated.”
Refuting the BMC’s claims, Mehta said she is yet to receive an official communication on the issue.
“What is the basis of this investigation when no one visited the site? We have not received any notice from the BMC. We have submitted the audited accounts every year and even have signature of receipt to prove that,” she said.
Responding to charges of violations, Mehta said being an autonomous institution, the museum management is answerable only to the board of trustees.
“We are not a department of the BMC and we have our own rules which we follow. All senior staff members hired have been approved by the executive committee. If the BMC is dissatisfied with the way we work, they should come and talk it out with us,” she said.
Terminating the contract, however, can be tricky as the agreement, signed in 2003 between the civic body, INTACH and Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation, states that it will be valid till 2023. In case of termination, the matter will have to be placed before a committee which would include Mehta as well.
Supporting the BMC’s plan, the group leaders said they feel confident that the museum will come under the jurisdiction of the BMC once again.
Samajwadi Party corporator Rais Shaikh said, “The original agreement is one-sided and was done under political pressure and we should find all legal means to terminate this agreement to remove this family kind of situation currently in effect in Bhau Daji Lad museum.”
MNS corporator Sandeep Deshpande said the museum belongs to the city and that the agreement will not be allowed to run it course.