The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) personnel are into an FIR overdrive against unauthorised construction within 100 metres of any centrally protected monument.
Thanks to a recent amendment in the archaeology Act, the ASI officials, not willing to face a jail term lest they are accused of being hand-in-glove with other agencies, have lodged FIRs in large numbers across Delhi. As against barely 5-6 such FIRs in a month, the two months since the Amendment on March 30 have seen more than 50 FIRs being lodged at various police stations.
With as many as 174 monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Delhi is the most affected city in the country due to the recent amendment in the Act with hundreds of properties falling within 100 metres of the protected monument.
The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act 2010, signed by the President on March 30, provides for a ban on any kind of construction within 100 metres — called the protected area — of a centrally protected monument.
A major first for the amendment is the provision of a stringent punishment for a Central government officer. The culpable officer shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both, as per the Act.
"We have lodged more than 50 FIRs and an equal number of police complaints across Delhi since the amendment," said ASI spokesman Dr B R Mani.
The problem has started mainly due to absence of an authority, which will give permission to property owners to expand/construct on their plots/buildings. “There have been hundreds of oral inquiries and more than 25 written applications asking for permission to construct/repair houses. (But) as per the Act, there is no provision even for emergency repairs. Moreover, the ASI is no more the authority to sanction it," Dr Mani added. The new amendment envisages creation of a Competent Authority in each state, which will receive the revision proposals.