After a lot of chaos, confusion and last minute drama over Gandhi’s belongings to be auctioned, Vijay Mallya bought the private collection of James Otis for USD 1.8 million(Rs 9.3 Crores) yesterday night in New York. However, Mallya gave up 2.1 million including the buyer’s premium. Click here to view some pictures of the auction from TOI. Indian government made some effort to have a direct deal with James Otis. James had put forward two conditions for this deal. Even if government of India fulfilled his conditions, he was in no postion to stop the auction based on the contract signed with the Antiquorum the auctioneers of Gandhi’s belongings.
The Indian government did their bit to stop the auction. Obviously, they failed to stop it. The reason is that the conditions put forward by James Otis were not easy to fulfill and Otis was by no means able to stop the auction according to the contract signed by him with Antiquorum. Otis was quoted as saying that he would agree to hand over the items if the Indian government agreed to one of two demands: Increase budgetary allocation for the poor by reducing military expenditure or create an international travelling exhibit about Mahatma Gandhi that would reach 78 countries, one for each year of his life. However, India couldn’t agree to fulfill his demands. Instead, India produced Mr. Gandhi’s will handwritten in Gujarati.
The Mahatma had made a will in 1940, appointing the Ahmedabad-based Navjeevan Trust as the legal heir to his property and written works. In the will Gandhi had said, “I do not believe that I have any property. Nevertheless, anything which by social convention or in law is considered mine; anything moveable or immovable; books, articles etc that I have written or may write hereafter, whether printed or not printed, all their copyright; I endow as my heir the Navjeevan Trust, whom I hereby declare as my heirs.”
The Delhi High Court used this will to put a stay on the auction with the help of US Department of Justice. However, the US Department od Justice allowed the auction to go on but imposed a 2 weeks delay to check for any claims. Since the Delhi High Court’s injunction against the sale was delivered to the auction house through the US Department of Justice, Antiquorum announced that they would delay delivery of the items in Lot 364 to the buyer for two weeks to leave time for any claims that may arise during this period. So, for the next two weeks all the auctioned belongings of Gandhi will stay with Antiquorum. That was a intelligent move by Indian government to have it’s claim on the collection of James Otis. However, the auction went on and they are sold to Vijay Mallya. Tony Bedi, President of UB Group, was bidding for Vijay Mallya at the auction in New York.
Antiquorum first decided the bid to start from between $20,000-$30,000. However, with a lot of media coverage and Indian government fighting it’s way to get the belongings of Gandhi the bid started at $300,000. Within three minutes the bids crossed a whooping $1million. Then, the momentum slowed down a bit. At the end, the collection was sold to Vijay Mallaya.
Amazingly, Vijay Mallya has also bought the sword of Tipu Sultan, for around Rs 4 Crore from, an auction in London in the year 2004. Tipu Sultan’s sword was back in India after more than 200 years. Thanx to Mallya. However, it created a lot of controversey in India. Indian Parliament had passed a law according to which if a private collector buys any piece of “historical interest” , the legal regime, far from waiving customs duty for retrieving national heritage, inflicts on him the hassles of obtaining an import license . Vijay Mallya faced similar hassles when he sought to bring back Tipu Sultan’s sword.