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Can’t auction coins bought for varsity museum, says HC

MU’s lawyer Rui Rodrigues, however, said the university was supporting the petition to stop the auction.

Mumbai |
Updated: February 6, 2014 12:17:50 pm

The Bombay High Court Friday said coins bought under the name of Dinesh Mody Numismatics and Archaelogy Museum, set up under the aegis of the Mumbai University, could not be auctioned.

A public interest litigation (PIL) filed on Thursday by Farokh Todywalla, a numismatist and president of Mumbai Coin Society, had sought that the auction scheduled for February 2 be stalled.

Newsline had Thursday reported that Dinesh Mody (84), a senior Supreme Court lawyer and a prominent numismatist, who had donated 25,000 coins to set up the museum in 2005, wanted to auction some coins of these coins, besides others from his own private collection.

Mody’s lawyer told a division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha that his client, being a passionate coin collector, set up the museum in an agreement with the University at its Vidyanagari campus in Kalina. He contended that the 409 coins expected to go under the hammer were valued at Rs 2.8 crore and could easily fetch anywhere between Rs 5 crore and Rs 6 crore.

The museum is not only rich in the number of antiques and rare coins, but also the only one in the country that curates coins and allied objects of as many as 235 countries of the world, states Todywalla’s PIL.

Mody, who had extended monetary help to maintain the museum besides donating coins, contended that he be allowed to go ahead with the auction as the coins put up for auction belong to his private collection.

Appearing for the petitioner, senior counsel Dinyar Madon argued, “We have identified around 45 coins that belong to the museum, and not to his (Mody’s) private collection. There can be a lot many, which do not belong to his private collection.”

Asked by the bench about the role of the University, Madon said, “University is not doing anything to stop the auction. Coins, which belong to the museum, cannot be auctioned only because he is the chairman of the museum.”

Chief Justice Shah asked Mody’s lawyer if they had the invoices of the coins bought by them and donated to the museum and said they could go ahead with the coins belonging to his private collection. The lawyer pleaded that until invoices for his private collection were filed, permission could be granted for the upcoming auction on February 2 as money had already been spent and bids invited.

MU’s lawyer Rui Rodrigues, however, said the university was supporting the petition to stop the auction.

While directing all parties to file their replies by February 20, the court posted the next hearing on February 26.

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