| An antique painting and idols seized by the CBI in Delhi. (PTI)
New Delhi, May 26: Union tourism minister Jagmohan today said a Bill to amend the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act of 1972 would be introduced in the next session of Parliament to strengthen the existing law in checking antique smuggling.
“The Act in its present form is very weak and the CBI has to do a lot of running around in order to prove such cases,” Jagmohan told reporters after paying a rare visit to the CBI headquarters in C.G.. Complex of south Delhi. “The people involved in the crime of hoarding antiques are very influential and we will attempt to make a stringent law which will act as a deterrent.”
The minister also had a look at the malkhana (storehouse) where priceless idols, paintings and sculptures seized during raids have been kept for years without proper care.
Over 1,500 seized antiques were put on display for the Union minister. Jagmohan complimented CBI director P.C. Sharma for preventing the national heritage from going abroad.
Jagmohan said his ministry would approach different courts for permission to keep the antiques in special galleries at museums since the malkhana was too cramped.
The minister was of the opinion that “antiques need special care by specialised people. Some of them need regular cleaning with chemicals while some need special lights. This is not possible in the CBI malkhana”.
Directing the agency to prepare an estimate for modernisation of the storehouse so that his ministry could consider providing grants, Jagmohan said CBI officers dealing with antiques would be trained at the Archaeological Survey Institute to be set up soon.
Earlier, officers from the CBI’s antique cell met the minister to apprise him of the problems they were facing in investigating serious antique smuggling cases.