In a possible reprieve for Café Samovar, the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday asked the Jehangir Art Gallery committee and the café’s owners to try and settle their dispute amicably.
During its latest hearing on Friday, the SC suggested that the two parties attempt to reach an amicable agreement, pointing out that the café is an institution in its own right and that museums all over the world have cafes on their premises. The court has asked both parties to file their responses by April 30.
Insiders acquainted with the matter pointed out that the court’s latest suggestion holds some hope for the café.
“Even the Supreme Court has recognised the value of Samovar. Hopefully an agreement can come about,” a source said, adding,
“The café could also be accommodated in the landing above the current location.”
Neither party was willing to comment in detail on a possible out-of-court settlement because the matter is still in court.
“If both groups can reach an agreement, then well and good, otherwise the matter will be decided by the law,” said Adi Jehangir, chairperson of the gallery’s committee. “At the moment, this is just the court’s suggestion, not an order or even a direction.”
In 2005, the art gallery had sent the café’s owners an eviction notice claiming it was an unauthorised occupation of government property and the gallery needed more exhibition space.
The gallery committee claims that Jehangir Art Gallery is a part of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and thus also qualifies as government property. After contesting the eviction order in 2008 in the city civil court Samovar moved the Bombay High Court, which dismissed the case last November. A few months ago, before the owners went to the SC, they tried to come to an agreement with the gallery committee, but that attempt failed.
As a nodal point for the city’s cultural set, Café Samovar has for the past 46 years been an important part of the city’s cultural landscape.
The 70 square feet the cafe occupies belies the enormous nostalgic space it holds for Mumbaiites.
“The Jehangir Art Gallery building without Samovar would be a building without a part of its soul,” said artist Jitish
Kallat. “The beauty of that space makes it more meaningful than the seven-day cycles of changing exhibitions.”