The Victoria Memorial Act, 1903

An Act no. 10 of the year 1903 i.e. the Victoria Memorial Act, 1903 which was enacted long back in the British period. The Act was passed by the Governor General of India in Council and was assented by the Governor General on the 20th day of March, 1903.The same legislation is provided with the view to make provisions as to erection and management of the Victoria Memorial Hall located at Calcutta. The present Act was amended several times by the different Amending Acts, including the Act no. 25 of 1943, Act no. 58 of 1960, Act of 1972 and also by the Act no. 32 of 1981.

The Victoria Memorial Hall, being fully funded by the Ministry of Culture and Government of India, was opened to the Public in the year 1921. Said was declared as institution of National Importance by the Government of India in the British period i.e. in 1935. The Victoria Memorial Hall was termed as ‘Museum’ under the Rules which were time to time made under the present Act.

So far as the provisions of the Act are concerned, there are only 5 sections in the Act, however, an additional section being section 6 of the Act was inserted in the Act, by the Amending Act of 1981. Considering serial number wise, the first section of the Act provides for short titling of the Act. The more relevant provisions under the Act contained from section 2 of the Act.

Section 2 of the Act makes provisions as to trustees of the Victoria Memorial, among whom the Governor of West Bengal should be Chairman, ex officio, the Chief Justice of the West Bengal’s High Court, ex officio and other 3 Central Governments nominated persons to be chosen from different fields by it also there should be a representative of the Central Government’s Ministry connected with the matters relating to the Victoria Memorial, ex officio. Besides these trustees of the Victoria Memorial there are also certain persons talked about in the provisions of section 2 of the Act. It is specifically, given under the same section that, said Trustees should be a corporate body, having all features of the registered Company, with the name and title as ‘The Trustees of the Victoria Memorial’. It is also made clear that in case of any vacancy of the aforementioned trustees, any action in the meeting of the Trustees should not be invalidated merely by that reason. There can also be appointment of Secretary of the Trustees under the Act.

Section 3 further makes provisions as to vesting of all moneys which was in the custody of Provisional Executive Committee and every other property, of either description, which has been or can be given or otherwise transferred for the purposes of the Victoria Memorial or eve acquired for that said purposes, with the Trustees. Also it was made clear under section 4 of the Act that, the said officers and servants which are employed by the Trustees should be treated as ‘Public Servants’ within the meaning of the provision of Indian Penal Code, 1860, however, the persons under service of any contractor employed by such Trustees, should not be treated as such. Similarly, the Central Government is empowered under section 5 of the Act to provide for the Rules by notifying in the Official Gazette for the purpose carrying of this Act and also said rules to provide on given matters provided under the provisions. And all such rules are required to be tabled before the Houses of Parliament while in session.

Lastly, the newly inserted provisions of section 6 of the Act specify the powers of the Trustees to make regulations.

Recently, in the year 2014, the Memorandum of Understanding entered into between the Ministry of Culture, Government of India and Victoria Memorial Hall, Calcutta, shows that, the there are four key objectives as identified by the said Hall, in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, which will be substantially needed to deliver in the next 3 years for improving its status. Those objectives are, to modernizing galleries and stores, caring, managing, etc. of collections, considering educational and outreach activities and strengthening administrative mechanism.

Adv. Faim Khalilkhan Pathan