The National Commission for Heritage Sites Bill, 2009

As a step towards protecting the large number of heritage sites lying in a state of neglect, this Bill seeks to constitute a National Commission of Heritage Sites. It seeks to meet the frameworks set out by the UNESCO Convention, 1972. Among other functions, the Commission shall maintain the heritage sites roster and create guidelines for the conservation of these sites.

Highlights of the Bill
  • The National Commission for Heritage Sites Bill, 2009 seeks to constitute a National Commission for Heritage Sites to give effect to UNESCO Convention, 1972. India ratified the Convention in 1977.
  • The central government may notify heritage sites and enter the description of these sites in a heritage sites roster. The Commission shall maintain the roster.
  • The functions of the Commission include (i) recommending policies with respect to conservation, protection, and management of heritage sites; (ii) laying down standards for the development of scientific and technical institutions and courses; and (iii) creating guidelines for conservation and management of heritage sites.
  • The Commission may issue directions to any person who is the owner or controls a heritage site to provide access to such site for its maintenance. The person may be directed to not endanger or damage the site. Any person who fails to comply will be subject to a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh.
Key Issues and Analysis
  • While the Bill has new definitions in line with the UNESCO Convention, the definitions in the existing laws which protect monuments have not been amended. The Bill combined with existing Acts do not fully conform to the provisions related to conservation under the UNESCO Convention.
  • With one exception - of the power to direct owners of sites to permit access and related penalties - the functions of the Commission do not need legislative backing. An alternate formulation to the Bill is to set up the Commission through notification, and to amend existing laws to provide for penalties and directions.
  • The Bill creates a national roster for heritage sites of national importance, to be maintained by the Commission. The National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities was set up in 2007 with a five-year term to prepare a national register of built heritage, sites and antiquities. The Commission's work partly duplicates this initiative.

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