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Question

Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972 has long outlived the purpose for which it was drafted. What are the various issues in the law? Also suggest measures with examples from the world to address them.

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Solution

Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972 was enacted to regulate the possession and trade of antiquities and art treasures, to prevent smuggling and fraudulent dealings in antiquities. It mandates the registration of the antiquities in private possession. The act consists of number of issues which led to lack of data about the antiquities in India. Some of the drawbacks with the legislation are
  1. Excessive state control : Due to over regulation by government, trading of the antiques becomes difficult.
  2. Definition of Antiquity : There is an argument that legal definition of antiquity is so wide that anything over 100 years automatically becomes antiquity.
  3. Deterrence to registration : The act provides various avenues to prosecute private collector on the name of “inadequate maintenance of the object”. Such provision deter private collector to register their antiquity.In such case smuggling of antiquity started and deter the domestic trade of antiquity.
  4. Registration with The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) : Registration with ASI with is cumbersome process. Due to this private collector avoid the registration with ASI.
  5. Punishment: Penal provisions under the Act is so mild that it does not deter the individuals to commit crime under the act.
  6. Poor Capacity of ASI : Due to lack of resources and understaffing of ASI it is not able to Regulate the antiquity market properly.
  7. Lack of national database: There is a lack of national database regarding antiquity registration. Due to this it is difficult to monitor all the antiquity present in the country.
  8. Poor Capacity of Investigation agency: There is no expertise agency to handle the crime related to antiquity.
Measures to address these issues:
  1. National database: There should be a National database of antiquity to regulate the trade of antiquity. In this case we can quote the examples of The cultural heritage squad which has built a database of missing artifacts. It is one of the most impressive police force for protecting antiquities. The force has recovered more than missing Eight lakhs artifacts.
  2. Increasing the Capacity of ASI : More funds and resources should be allocated to ASI so that it functions in a more effective way to regulate the antiquity market. In the same direction,Draft Antiquities and Art Treasures Regulation, Export and Import Bill, 2017 empower ASI to raid any house if it feels antiques have been stored wrongfully.
  3. Prohibition on export of antiquities : There should be proper regulatory mechanism to regulate the trade in antiquity. The Draft Antiquities and Art Treasures Regulation, Export and Import Bill, 2017,prohibits the export of antiques to other countries. Exports of Antiquities are to be done only by government or its agencies. It will help in checking smuggling of antiquity in the International market.
Way Forward:
In the draft bill many initiatives are taken to regulate the antiquity trade. But provisions of the bill like free trading of antiques within India could boost smuggling and illegal trade. So there should be a regulatory mechanism to regulate trade within India also. Efforts has to be taken to search and retrieve the smuggled artifacts to India.

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