It also directed the formation of Mamallapuram World Heritage Area Management Authority (MWHAMA) within eight weeks.
A division bench comprising Justice R Mahadevan and Justice PD Audikesavalu issued the directions on a suo motu plea after observing that despite several directions time and again to the HR&CE Department to take a list of all temples, maintain them, retrieve temple lands and properties from encroachers and ensure transparency by displaying these details on its website, the department had failed to fully comply with them.
Though there are provisions under the Ancient Monuments and the Archaeological Sites and Remains Act and in the HR&CE Act to take action against the errant officials, the authorities concerned have not endeavoured to do so, the bench noted. It added that allegations and complaints would vanish if the State and HR&CE Department were diligent, conscious and sensitive to protect the heritage of the land.
Penning the order, Justice Mahadevan said the directions given were based on reports from UNESCO, the amicus and also considering the court’s role to act in the capacity of ‘Parens Patriae’ (legal protector) to protect the historical monuments.
Seeking to establish MWHAMA within eight weeks, the bench also directed the State to simultaneously constitute a Heritage Commission consisting of 17 members to act as an advisory body to MWHAMA and the government.
The Commission should comprise representatives from the Archaeological Survey of India and State Archaeological Department along with a renowned historian or anthropologist, two representatives from PWD, one from HR&CE, one Stapathi, two experts in Agamas and Shilpa Shastras, and one chemical analyst, the court said.
Also, asking the government to consider the inclusion of a representative from UNESCO in the panel, the bench said “The Heritage Commission shall identify all the structures, monuments, temples, antiques with historical/archaeological importance and formulate a list with the age of such monuments by categorising them within their period group.”
Structural alteration or repair of any monument should be undertaken only with the sanction of the Commission, the bench held.
It also directed the government to reconstitute the state-level expert committee to carry out and accord sanctions for repairs/renovations of temples and archaeological sites based on the recommendation of the district-level committees.