Draft Antiquities and Art Treasures Regulation, Export and Import Bill, 2017

Recently government proposed a draft bill related to antiquities known as “The Draft Antiquities and Art Treasures Regulation, Export and Import Bill, 2017”. The bill is an amended version of the current Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972.

The bill aims at abolishing state regulation in the business of art and antiques and providing way for free trading of Antiquities.

Objectives

  • To make the business in antiques easier and transparent.
  • To provide preservation, protection and promotion of antiquities and art treasures.
  • To develop, regulate and promote domestic trade in art and antiques.
  • To provide for the prevention of illegal dealings in antiquities and art treasures.
  • To provide for the compulsory acquisition thereof for preservation in public places.
  • To regulate the export and import in antiquities and art treasures.
  • To solve the issue of red-tapism faced by art lovers.

Limitations with present law

As per the present law that is Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972 only individuals with licences issued by the government are authorised to sell antiques within the country. The licenses issued by an authorised officer of the ASI who scrutinizes the applicant’s details through his experience as a trader in antiques etc. This makes difficult trading of antiques. While the entire country got rid of the license raj in 1990, the antiques market continued to suffer due to excessive state control.  Under the 1972 Act, It is mandatory for any individual to register the object more than 100 years old have with the government or with ASI. Due to fear of acquisition of antique by government many Antiquities are not registered.

Important provisions of the draft bill

The key provisions of this bill are as follows:

Prohibition on export of antiquities

The draft bill prohibits the export of antiques to other countries. Exports of Antiquities are to be done only by government or its agencies. However, the bill allows trade in antiques virtually without any restrictions within the country. That is there is no regulation for trading Antiquities with in India.

More Powers to Archaeological Survey of India

This act has empowered the Archaeological Survey of India to raid any house if it feels antiques have been stored wrongfully. With the concurrence of central government Archaeological Survey of India, may, write off any antiquity or art treasure which has lost its antiquarian value because of “wear and tear over a period of time”.

Appointment of Expert Advisory Commiteees

The central government may appoint Expert Advisory committees, for the purpose of dealing the issues related to Antiquities. The committee consists of

  • Convener not below the rank of a Superintending Archaeologist.
  • alternate convener not below the rank of a Deputy Superintending Archaeologist
  • not less than three other members to be co-opted from a panel of expert persons, to be prepared by the Central Government, having proven experience and expertise in in the fields of antiquities and art treasures, archaeology, handicrafts, textiles, heritage and such other fields as may prescribed

The main functions of Expert Advisory committee are

  • To decide any article like coins, manuscript, statues etc. will come under this act or not.
  • To certify the authenticity of Antiquities.
  • To decide or determine any question or issue as may be referred to an expert advisory committee by the Director General, Archaeological Survey of India.

Other Proposals

  • The bill removes the provision to declare the source of acquisition.
  • The draft has also waived customs duty for anyone who brings back antiques of Indian-origin after lawful purchase and artists who bring back their own creations.
  • Under the proposed bill if a person does not register or wrongly registers the object, they are liable to be punished.
  • If any antiquity or art treasure is compulsorily acquired by the government then government shall paid compensation. The amount of compensation shall be determined through mutual agreement.

Criticism

Some of the provisions of the bill like free trading of antiques within India could boost smuggling and illegal trade. The bill also does away with the requirement to declare the source of acquisition. This provision also promotes illegal trade. In recent years, so many instances proved the nexus between illicit antiquities trade and terror funding but the proposed bill not mention any measures to prevent terror funding through antiquities

Exam Topics

Prelims:

A topic related to this for prelims is 1970 UNESCO Convention which prohibits illicit trading and transfer of ownership of cultural properties including antiquities. But the convention does not cover any recovery claims of antiquities either smuggled or exported before 1970. This instantly puts a significant number of antiquities lost by colonized countries beyond any hope of return.  Due to this it is difficult for India to get Kohinoor diamond back. Another  prelims related topic is the basic knowledge about the Archaeological Survey of India, which was founded in 1861 by Alexander Cunningham who also became its first Director-General of ASI. ASI works under Ministry of Culture.

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