Background Note on The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2023
- The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 (AMASR Act) aims at the protection and preservation of archaeological and historical monuments and sites. It also provides for the regulation of archaeological excavations and for protection of sculptures, carvings and other such objects. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) functions under the provisions of this Act.
- With an intention to allow the construction of public works as the prohibition of new construction within prohibited areas of a protected area or protected monument was adversely affecting the various public works and developmental projects of the Central Government, the Amendment Bill was first introduced in Lok Sabha in 2017. The Amendment Bill was passed in Lok Sabha in January 2018; however it was then referred to a Select Committee in Rajya Sabha.
- An Amendment Bill was planned to be introduced during the Budget Session of 2023, however, it was not introduced. Now, the same is proposed to be introduced during the Monsoon Session of 2023.
Key Features of the Amendment Bill of 2017
- The Act defines a “prohibited area” as a 100-meter zone surrounding a protected monument or area, with an additional regulated area extending up to 300 meters. However, the central government has the authority to extend the prohibited area beyond 100 meters. Under the Act, construction is not allowed in
these prohibited areas, even for public purposes, unless specific conditions are met. The 2017 Bill sought to amend this by permitting construction of public works in prohibited areas for public purposes.
- The Bill introduced a clear definition for “public works,” which includes infrastructure projects financed and carried out by the Central Government for public safety and security, and must be to address specific instances of danger to public safety. The proposed process in the Bill for seeking permission for public works involves making an application to the competent authority, with the National Monuments Authority providing recommendations and reasons to the Central Government. The Central Government’s decision is final, and if it differs from the Authority’s recommendation, written reasons must be provided.
- The Bill also empowers the National Monuments Authority (NMA) to conduct an impact assessment of proposed public works in prohibited areas, considering archaeological, visual, and heritage impacts before making recommendations for construction to the Central Government, provided there is no reasonable alternative outside the prohibited area.
Need for the New Bill of 2023
The Amendment Bill of 2017 was referred to the Select Committee which made the following major recommendations in its Report:
- The Committee acknowledged the significance of preserving our ancient monuments and emphasized the necessity of formulating rules and regulations to ensure their protection.
- They suggested maintaining a delicate balance between monument preservation and infrastructural development catering to the needs of local residents and tourists. The Committee recommended documenting site plans/maps for all monuments, easily accessible through ASI and National Monument Authority (NMA) websites.
- They expressed concern over the lack of scientific reasoning behind the 100-meter and 200-meter area limits for prohibited and regulated zones around monuments and proposed a systematic study by experts to determine rational area limits on a case-by-case basis. The Committee suggested enabling NMA to develop Heritage Bye-Laws for all monuments promptly and advocated for consultation with experts when deciding whether a construction project qualifies as public work.
- The Committee encouraged expediting the framing of necessary bye-laws by NMA and recommended exploring feasible alternatives for infrastructure projects near protected monuments. They stressed the need for tailored preservation strategies considering different types of monuments and suggested forming a local-level body to evaluate construction proposals.
- The Committee proposed public hearings and environmental impact assessments for projects seeking permission in prohibited and regulated areas.
- Lastly, the Committee called for a comprehensive overhaul of the AMASR Act, 1958, including revising the definition of public works and reassessing area restrictions based on scientific evidence and monument classification. Despite these concerns, the Committee recommended passing the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017.
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are entirely those of the author(s). Swaniti makes every effort to use reliable and comprehensive information, but Swaniti does not represent that the contents of the report are accurate or complete. Swaniti is a non-profit, non-partisan group. This document has been prepared without regard to the objectives or opinions of those who may receive it. NOTE: This Bill analysis is prepared on the basis of information and materials available in media sources or public domain only. The Bill is yet to be introduced in the Parliament, hence, the note will be updated as and when a text of Bill is available
 “Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Amendment Bill to be reintroduced in Budget session”, The Hindu, February
 . Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/ancient-monuments-and-archaeological-sites-and-remains-amendment-bill-to-bereintroduced-in-budget-session/article66517350.ece.
 Priyali Prakash, “Explained | What is the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill?”, The Hindu, March 2023. Available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/explained-what-is-the-ancient-monuments-and-archaeological-sites-and-remainsamendment-bill/article66563555.ece.
 Clause 3 of The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2017. Available at: https://sansad.in/getFile/BillsTexts/LSBillTexts/Asintroduced/107_2017_LS_Eng.pdf?source=legislation.
 Ibid, Clause 2.
 Ibid, Clause 3.
 Ibid, Clause 2.
 “Report of the Select Committee on The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, 2018”, Rajya Sabha, 7th February, 2019. Available at: https://sansad.in/getFile/rsnew/Committee_site/Committee_File/ReportFile/63/106/1_2019_2_17.pdf?source=rajyasabha.