New York: James Otis who claims ownership of Mahatma Gandhi’s personal items has appointed a new attorney to represent him.
Otis now wants the five items back which industrialist and liquor baron Vijay Mallya had purchased for $1.8 million in the auction and has been in contact with Antiquorum Auctioneers.
His former attorney Ravi Batra, who on Friday had said he was writing to the auctioneers to return the items, has resigned. Batra told PTI that he would contemplate legal action on the basis of response by the auctioneers.
But he issued a statement yesterday, saying he has resigned as Otis’ attorney, a job which he had taken on March five. “I have enjoyed assisting James in navigating the legal issues,” he said, announcing his resignation.
However, he declined to give reason, citing attorney-client confidentiality.
Asked about Batra’s resignation, Otis said he is now being represented by Thomas Kissane who will contact the Attorney General’s office in New York in an effort to sort out the issue.
The items are still lying with the auctioneers to enable the Justice Department to give a ruling on the legal issues involved as the Delhi High Court had stayed the auction.
The stay was granted by the court on the basis Navjeevan Trust contending that it was the custodian all Gandhi’s property.
Should the Justice Department declare the auction illegal, analysts say the situation could get complicated with Otis claiming that the items be returned to him.
The Justice Department had served notice on auctioneer before the auction that items could transferred to the successful bidder until it decides the third party claim. But it had allowed the auction to go through.
The two-week period for which the auctioneers had announced they would hold the items is due to end later this week.
The auctioned items include Gandhi’s ionic pocket watch and glasses as also a pair of sandals, a plate and a bowl. Otis had said he had got some of the items from members of Gandhi family and some he had bought in auctions.
Otis had tried to stop the auction at the last moment but auctioneers refused to do so, contending that pulling the items off the auction at the late stage could mean a lot of liability for the company.
Otis now says he wants to come to an agreement with the government of India on the basis of his proposal which calls for increasing the allocation in the budget for the poor and a fully paid tour of Gandhi’s items to 78 countries to spread his message of non violence.
The government has already rejected the proposal.