Issues series of 75 directions to the State on issues related to their management
The Madras High Court on Monday issued a series of 75 directions to the State government on protecting historical monuments, sites, ancient temples, idols, safeguarding temple funds, conducting audits, retrieving temple properties, appointing temple staff, paying salaries to them, filling up vacancies in the post of trustee, maintaining the animals owned by the temples and safeguarding their waterbodies.
Justices R. Mahadevan and P.D. Audikesavalu ordered that the Mamallapuram World Heritage Area Management Authority should be established within eight weeks to manage and safeguard all monuments and that a 17-member Heritage Commission should also be constituted to act as an advisory body to the Authority. Historians, archaeologists and anthropologists should be part of the commission.
“The Heritage Commission shall identify all the structures, monuments, temples, antiques with historical/archaeological importance within the State of Tamil Nadu, formulate a list with age of such monuments by categorising them within their period group, issue appropriate notification, render periodical advice to the State, supervise the restoration, repair works etc., and maintain the same,” the court order read.
It also made it clear that no structural alteration or repair of any monument/temple/idol/sculpture/murals notified under the relevant Central and State legislations should take place without the sanction of the commission.
The orders were passed on a suo motu public interest litigation petition taken up by the court on the basis of a reader’s letter titled ‘The Silent burial’ published in The Hindu on January 8, 2015.
The court also ordered re-constitution of State-level and district-level expert committees, comprising of structural experts, to accord sanction for repairs or renovation of temples and archaeological sites. The committees should meet at least once every month and conduct periodical inspection of monuments and temples, prepare reports and forward them to the government for appropriate action, the court said.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was also directed to conduct field survey of temples that were more than 100 years old, estimate the damages and restore the structures as per rules within 6 to 12 months. “Architectural marvels, mural paintings, stone & wall inscriptions, wooden carving, copper plates, old antique utensils of the temples, etc, shall be protected, preserved and maintained properly,” the court ordered.
The funds of individual temples should first be utilised for the maintenance of those temples, conducting festivals, making payment to its staff including the archakas, oduvars, musicians, folklore and drama artiste and only the surplus fund could be utilised for attending the repair and maintenance of other temples, the judges said. They directed the State government to allocate sufficient funds for preservation of ancient monuments.
Registers for maintenance of jewels and other valuables must be maintained and updated properly and immovable properties of the temples must be taken stock of and retrieved from encroachments. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department website must display the number of idols of historical importance, the number stolen, the number retrieved and the status of investigation with regard to stolen cases, the court ordered.
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