The future of Café Samovar in Jehangir Art Gallery at Kala Ghoda will now be decided by the Supreme Court (SC).
The café’s proprietors, Usha Khanna and her daughter Devieka Bhojwani, who have been fighting a long battle against its eviction, have now challenged in the apex court a Bombay High Court order that paved the way for the eviction.
“The SC is our last resort to salvage a place that has served the city well. Samovar is valuable to a lot of people and this whole battle has been a gross injustice,” said Bhojwani. She added that that the SC is likely to hear the matter on Monday.
K.G. Menon, secretary of Jehangir Art Gallery refused to comment on the issue. “The matter is now in the hands of the SC, they will decide. I have nothing to say,” Menon said
For 45 years, the art café has served not just lassis and light meals but has also been a refuge for a community of artists, writers, students, filmmakers and intellectuals. The café has been fighting to preserve its tenancy within the Jehangir Art Gallery since March 2005, when the latter, claiming that it needed additional exhibiting spaces sent an eviction notice.
Khanna contested the eviction order issued by the state government’s competent officer in July 2008, in the city civil court. They next went to the Bombay High Court, which in November 2009 dismissed the case.
While Samovar is indeed an iconic retreat for the city’s culture seekers it is also a commercial enterprise, for which Bhojwani has been paying a monthly rent of Rs 600. The café has also marked up its rates.
“We tried to work out an out-of-court settlement wherein we proposed that we pay the gallery more rent or that they give us five years to vacate the place. They didn’t agree to that so we even asked for three years but they did not budge,” Bhojwani claimed.
“A ready tea costs Rs 5 and a full meal Rs 100. The café is at its full capacity all the time that should indicate that Samovar isn’t expensive,” she said.