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UT administration begins probe into smuggling of heritage furniture case

by Bhavya DubeySeptember 1, 2017

The UT Administration began an official probe into the actions of N P S Randhawa, who is being investigated by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence for his alleged role in smuggling out heritage furniture from Chandigarh designed by Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier and his associate Pierre Jeanneret.

The UT Administration said it was investigating how Randhawa, who was the UT Assistant Inspector General (Prisons) in 2008, was given additional charge as director of Museum and Art Gallery, giving him easy access to UT’s heritage furniture. A senior official of the Heritage Protection Cell, who knows about the inquiry said: “As a museum director, he was the custodian of all our antiquities at our museum and it is possible that he may have misused his position. We are inquiring from all the officials who worked during that tenure under him. This is also strange that AIG prison was given charge of the culture department.”

The official added, “We have been informed that while being in the post of AIG prisons, he would call for our furniture saying that the inmates are good furniture makers and would help in repairing the broken and worn-out stuff. We are working on this and officials have been asked to probe where the furniture went after being repaired.”

Since 2011, activist Ajay Jagga had been writing to the Chandigarh Administration to probe the disappearance of furniture designed by Corbusier and Jeanneret, and its appearance at auction houses in Europe and America, where each piece was sold for lakhs. Jagga said that when the Chandigarh authorities stopped listening to him, he wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office, Director Revenue Intelligence, ASI, CBI and Interpol to enquire about it.

In 2014, a heritage protection cell was constituted by UT of which Jagga was made a member. Jagga said that in April 2016, he even gave a complaint at the UT Police headquarters but was told by officers to get a DDR lodged and thereafter kept mum. The activist said he had been telling the officials that the furniture could not have gone abroad without official connivance.

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