Lalit Kala Akademi secretary Sudhakar Sharma was on Monday suspended by MoS Culture Mahesh Sharma over “serious irregularities”, a year after he was reinstated by the ministry.
The move comes after a series of bitter exchanges between the Akademi and the ministry. Secretary Sharma has been dismissed from the Akademi twice earlier and still faces a series of inquiries and court cases.
A letter, dated January 9, from Deputy Secretary Bandana Banerjee to Lalit Kala Akademi Administrator C S Krishna Setty noted that “a disciplinary proceeding is contemplated against Shri Sudhakar Sharma… in respect of certain serious administrative and financial lapses and irregularities, constituting serious misconduct, post resumption of charge by him as the secretary, LKA, since 16.10.2015”.
“In the circumstances,” the letter said, “it is directed” with the “approval” of minister Sharma that secretary Sharma “be placed under suspension with immediate effect”. “The details of various charges… shall follow hereafter,” it read.
The decision was taken by the minister on Monday after several ministry officials, including Culture Secretary N K Sinha, recently submitted to the minister a detailed report on “administrative and financial irregularities” by secretary Sharma.
In the report, the officials listed a series of old and new charges, including one that says “many high value paintings of artists like M F Husain have been found missing in LKA. The role of Sudhakar Sharma in this case is highly suspected.”
Recommending his immediate suspension, a fresh chargesheet and a CBI probe against him, the officials cited several instances when Sharma functioned “in clear defiance of the directions of the HCM (Honourable Culture Minister)”. The officials also pointed to the allocation of the Akademi’s galleries for 2016-17 by Sharma that was eventually cancelled by the ministry as it found the “selections were manipulated”.
Following the submission of this report, Sharma had told The Indian Express: “There was no anomaly in the gallery allocation.” On charges such as missing paintings of Husain, he said: “This is not in my knowledge. It is very strange how, without enquiring with the person concerned, the Ministry of Culture is contemplating this.”
He added: “I am not worried about any inquiry. They (ministry bureaucrats) tried to harass me in the last three years but could not prove anything.”
Calls and messages to Sharma on Monday were unanswered.