The Parliament enacted The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act in 1958 with an intention to preserve prehistoric and ancient sculptures and monuments and archaeological areas which are of national significance. The Act also aims to control archeological mining or excavations and to look after monuments and carvings including other articles of historic importance. The legislation was enacted on August 28, 1958 and came into force on October 15, 1959 with 39 sections.
The Act defines ‘Ancient Monument’ as any construction, erection, sculpture, any tumulus or the area of entombment and any cave, rock carvings, writings that is of historical importance or archeological concern and which is in subsistence for hundred years or more. It further includes the leftovers or the area of historic monuments, the land adjacent to the area where the ancient monument is preserved and necessary facilities for the suitable assessment of the monument. According to the Act ‘antiquity’ means and includes any coin, epigraph, scripts or documents, statues or carvings, objects separated from the buildings, objects of historical significance and the objects pronounced by the Central Government as antiquity and which persisted for hundred years or more.
The Act incorporated within its meaning all the ancient monuments and archeological areas which are proclaimed by the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Declaration of National Importance) Act, 1951 and States Reorganization Act, 1956 which are important for the tradition of the nation to serve the purposes provided under the Act. If any ancient monument or area to be protected due to its national importance which is not mentioned under the present Act, the Central government shall have power to declare such monuments to be protected by notifying in the Gazette of India. The Central government shall attach the duplicate of the notification in a noticeable part close to the monument or area where the monument is preserved.
The Director General is granted power to accept gift or obtain lease of any protected sculpture but with the previous authorization of the Central Government. Where the protected monument does not contain an owner, such monument or ancient sculpture shall be accepted and protected by the Director General as guardian of such monument. The owner shall represent the Director General to be the guardian of the protected monument by providing a written authorization in this behalf. The Director General shall agree to the guardianship of the historical sculpture and thereafter he shall have the same rights, responsibilities, estate and interest as the real owner.
Additionally, where the Central government is of the opinion that the transfer of any antiquities is to be prevented without the authorization of the Central Government, such Government shall prohibit the transfer by an order. The Act also penalizes for the destruction or alteration of the monuments by the public.
In 1972, the Parliament enacted Antiquities and Art Treasures Act which made certain modifications and substitutions to the present Act. Further the Central Government also formulated The Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 which came into force on January 23, 2010. The fundamental objective of the amending Act was to protect and safeguard the monuments and impose limitations on the mining of ancient sculptures and articles.