Protect Heritage Monument and Places of Historical Importance: Supreme Court to India Government

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The Apex Court of India recently brushed up on matter that bears historical importance constitutionally. It has made a review on Public Interest Litigation (PIL) demanding protection for historical objects in various museums across our country. On which governments acknowledged the issues and were ready to take necessary actions with the command of the Court.

India really has a valuable heritage including archeological treasures and monuments. It has been disheartening to note that some people misuse these rich monuments of ancient nature. These historical artifacts were maintained in some reputed museums in India under the control of Central Governments, State Governments as well with private museums. On the positive aspects of these monuments there are certain negative aspects follows such as theft, damages, illegal export and import of these objects, etc,. Inorder to put an end to this several PIL has been filed before the court.

Public Interest Litigation filed by Subhas Datta in 2004 was disposed off for preservation of historical objects from theft and damages. It seeks proper security arrangements as well as proper inquiry on theft and damages of historical objects that are maintained for future. This Petition is made out to protect several Indian Museums of National importance that has to be safeguarded and maintained in a manner in which no faults happens in preserving our historical monuments.

In this case petitioner pointed out that Under Article 42 and 51A(f) of our Indian Constitution it is our fundamental duty to value and protect our heritage by preserving our historical monuments and protect them from all damages. They also pointed out that there should be records of the objects maintained in every museum and should be kept under the purview of Government of India. Periodical surveys and stocks have to be maintained and conducted duly by independent agencies. They also touched the intention of enacting Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904 and Prevention of Damage of Public Property Act, 1984.

“Article 49 Protection of monuments and places and objects of national importance It shall be the obligation of the State to protect every monument or place or object of artistic or historic interests, declared by or under law made by Parliament to be of national importance, from spoliation, disfigurement, destruction, removal, disposal or export, as the case may be”

“Article 51A (f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;”

Preamble of Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904 are as follows:-

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“WHEREAS it is expedient to provide for the preservation of ancient monuments, for the exercise of control over traffic in antiquities and over excavation in certain places, and for the protection and acquisition in certain cases of ancient monuments and of objects of archaeological, historical or artistic interest;”

Preamble of Prevention of Damage of Public Property Act, 1984 are as follows:-

“An Act to provide for preservation of damages to public property and for matters connected therewith”

 Documentation and digitalization were taking place for the preservation of artifacts with the help of The Antiquities & Art Treasures Act, 1972. The Preamble of the act says “An Act to regulate the export trade in antiquities and art treasures, to provide for the prevention of smuggling of, and fraudulent dealings in, antiquities, to provide for the compulsory acquisition of antiquities and art treasures for preservation in public places and to provide for certain other matters connected therewith or incidental or ancillary thereto.”

The Court noticed the guidelines attached to the counter filed by the respondents and their stand, ordered the Ministry to file updated counter about the achieved recommendations. The Court also insisted a special training in regard to the security purpose and to accept the suggestions given by other agencies. In the court opinion it has never felt satisfactory, wherein the stolen objects were yet to found out and the verification is not up to the mark. It also disappointed with the adapted security measures.

The Court mentioned that at this point it is not relevant to direct the Central government as they are already in the progress of improvising its protection of its historical monuments. It is also developing its security measures as per the recommendations formed and with the open suggestions given by other private agencies.

In United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) conference in 1970, discussed on measures to  prevent  illegal exports, imports and transfer of ownership of cultural properties and is duly ratified by India as a signatory . The International Councils of Museums (ICOM) with the support of UNESCO made certain guidelines in relation to museums management.  UNESCO in its report suggested several security measures for protecting historical objects in the museums. It also suggested the barriers in providing proper protection of our historical monuments.

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As per “The Hindu” news published in June 29 2012, “catching one person in eight to ten years is a failure of present laws.” Several sets of people from rag-pickers to sophisticated art dealers have channeled Indian art out of our Country. Now- a-days big shots were also involved in these cheap business of illicit exports and imports of these historical monuments. The worrying factor is that the law made for protecting our heritage has become self-defeating. This is because the registered purchase of antiquities has become stringent with lots of procedures and formalities. Though all these were happenings, UNESCO suggested several guidelines to proceed in protecting our historical objects and the governments were also struggling to block the lacuna in and around in protecting the rich heritage by providing several security measures and trying to investigate on issues of theft or damages of our historical objects. The Apex Court also with the intention of protecting our rich heritage by preserving  ancient monuments and artifacts directed  the governments to perform their works duly and effectively.