Painter tries to get FIR registered for a year, fails
What was worse was that after the inaction, when Pabrekar filed an RTI query regarding the status of his complaint, he got a reply that there was no information on the topic available with the Matunga police. “Later, they called Ravindra Mardiya, the owner of the website,” he said
MUMBAI: A year ago, renowned artist Ravindra Pabrekar, after discovering an alleged fraud being committed regarding his paintings, approached the Matunga police to register an FIR. Despite senior police officials assuring him of prompt action, nothing was ever done. Pabrekar has now approached the Maharashtra human rights commission against the police inaction.
On August 11 last year, the 62-year-old abstract painter submitted a written complaint to the police, detailing how a website called ‘World Art Hub’ was selling paintings using his name. Some of the paintings on display were poor copies of his works, which were being sold for a fraction of the price his own paintings commanded, while others were not his works at all.
“I was casually googling my name to look at some of my previous exhibits when I came across this website last July,” he said. “I found two or three images of my original paintings along with images of two or three other paintings that were not mine, which also were put up for sale in my name.”
Pabrekar then asked a friend to purchase one of “his” paintings, which was being sold for ₹15,000. “My friend received the painting from Ahmedabad in two weeks,” he said. “There was no Certificate of Authenticity and the artist’s name mentioned behind the painting was Ahmad Miqdad.”
On doing an online search with Pabrekar’s name, the fake paintings are among the top results. The meagre price tags—his originals sell for at least four to five times the amount—have greatly affected his brand value and resulted in huge losses for him, he said.
After several trips to the police station proved futile for Pabrekar, he decided to approach the higher authorities. He first met the then DCP of Zone 4, Dr Pravin Mundhe, who was transferred soon after. “I then met Satyanarayan Choudhary, joint commissioner of police, law and order, through a retired policeman I know,” he said. “He redirected me to the new DCP, Prashant Kadam. Every time the officers would meet me warmly, assuring me of their support but would retract in subsequent meetings, saying my case could not be registered.”
What was worse was that after the inaction, when Pabrekar filed an RTI query regarding the status of his complaint, he got a reply that there was no information on the topic available with the Matunga police. “Later, they called Ravindra Mardiya, the owner of the website,” he said. “He gave them a written response, saying that I was asking for very high compensation, which he could not pay. After this, the police said this was now a civil case and I should approach the court. My right to get an FIR registered has been denied by the very people who are supposed to uphold it.”
When contacted, Mardiya said the paintings were part of a 2013 event in which he had promoted Pabrekar. “Our web developer tagged some paintings by another artist, Ahmad Miqdad, under Pabrekar’s name by mistake,” he claimed. “We are ready to compensate him for the difference in pricing. There is nothing malicious in our dealings.”
Pabrekar questioned why such an easy-to-rectify mistake was not corrected even after he got in touch with Mardiya to question the low pricing and wrong use of his name. “This amounts to wilfully cheating buyers,” he said. “This is also a gross misuse of my name. I did give him a few of my paintings for the exhibition he mentioned but they were not to be sold on the website.”
Art dealer and buyer Premal Sanghvi said that fakes and duplicates were the bane of the art world across the globe. “In the absence of laws to define what constitutes an offence in such cases, artists remain a vulnerable lot,” he said. “It is a type of economic offence, as it curtails the earning potential of an artist. Yet, most artists don’t get or sometimes choose not to take legal recourse in such situations.” Sanghvi feels that things have become much worse with the mushrooming of online ‘galleries’ that have a very clinical categorisation of art.
Art critic Abhijit Tamhane pointed out that while a well-networked veteran like Pabrekar might pursue a legal fight, the smaller, still-struggling artists were the most vulnerable in such scams. “They often face fraudulent practices of this kind that usually go unreported,” he said.
The human rights commission has scheduled the first hearing on Pabrekar’s complaint on September 8.