The Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972 was enacted with an objective to control the export business in the treasures of antiquities and sculptures, to avoid smuggling and fraudulent commercial activities in the antiques, to necessarily acquire antiquities and sculpture for conservation and for other issues related with the subject.

The Act defines the term ‘antiquity’ as any sculpture, coin, epigraphs of images, other crafts and art or piece of writing, things or articles separated from caves or structures or the articles, things etc which represents science, expertise, literature, tradition, religion and political affairs from the olden ages. It further includes articles or things of historical importance, the objects affirmed by the Central government as antique which is in subsistence for hundred or more years and any scripts or documents of historical or scientific value which subsisted for seventy five years and more.

An ‘art treasure’ according to the Act means the works that are not antiquity and acknowledged by the Central government by publicizing in the Gazette considering the creative or aesthetic importance. The Act makes it unlawful except the Central Government or the authorized person to export the objects that are historic or art treasure. The Central Government or authorized person shall export the antiquity only as per the stipulations and terms of permit provided by the prescribed authority. The export of the antiquity shall be guided by The Customs Act of 1962 which prohibits such export. After six months from the implementation of the Act, the conducting of business like selling any article of historical importance is prohibited except in accordance with the terms of license issued under the Act.

The Central government is authorized to appoint licensing officers who are Gazetted officers in the Government departments. The powers and functions of the licensing officers shall be determined by the Central Government. Where a person wishes to carry on the commercial dealings of antiquities, he shall file an application to obtain license to the appropriate licensing officer having the jurisdiction. The licensing officer on receiving the application shall conduct necessary inquiry and thereafter grant license after considering the practical experience of the person to deal with antiquities and the region where the person desires to conduct the business. The licensing officer shall also consider the number of persons carrying on the commercial dealings of the antiquities in the same region and other aspects necessary for issuing license.

On payment of specified fee, submission of documents and completion of other necessary formalities, the person shall get an opportunity to renew the license for carrying on the business of antiquities. Where it is noticed that the license has been obtained by fraudulent practices, the licensing officer shall revoke or suspend the license of the holder. The licensing officer shall amend or vary the terms of the license according to the prescribed rules. The Central government is empowered to issue notification declaring that such Government shall have the authority to carry on the business of articles of historic nature.

The Central government shall notify the list of antiquities that are to be registered. The list shall be prepared by the Central Government considering the requirement to conserve it, the appreciation of the artistic and cultural tradition of India and such other reasons of national importance. The Central government is empowered under the Act to appoint registering officers for issuing the certificate of registration. The Central Government shall also forcibly get hold of the antiquities if it considers essential by recompensing the owner.

The Central government is authorized under the Act to formulate rules for the proper implementation of the Act. In exercise of such provision, the Central government framed The Antiquities and Art Treasures Rules, 1973. The Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972 was amended by enacting The Antiquities and Art Treasurers (Amendment) Act in 1976.