In the year 1996, Jatin Das, the much celebrated painter, sculptor, muralist and poet, created the Flight of Steel. Commissioned by the Bhilai Steel Plant, the Flight of Steel was one of the largest sculptures ever made by the artist. Forged out of steel with the help of engineers and welders from the Steel Plant, it stood on a roundabout in Bhilai City, in what was then Madhya Pradesh. In March 2012, on a visit back to Bhilai City, the sculptor was in for a nasty shock: the sculpture had vanished from the roundabout, and was rumoured to have been moved piecemeal to a zoo. On reaching the zoo, the sculptor was dismayed to find that his work had been broken into various pieces and haphazardly relocated, some of them painted over, others lying in rubble.
Fortunately, Das has a cause of action against the destruction of his sculpture. In 2005, the High Court of Delhi, in a similar case involving the destruction of a mural created by the renowned artist Amar Nath Sehgal brought down the mallet resoundingly in favour of the special relationship between an author and his work. The court held, ‘In the material world, laws are geared to protect the right to equitable remuneration. But life is beyond the material. It is temporal as well. Many of us believe in the soul. Moral Rights of the author are the soul of his works. The author has a right to preserve, protect and nurture his creations through his moral rights.’
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