Ancient monuments Bill goes to panel for more scrutiny

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Charminar,Famous monument in hyderabad,India

New Delhi, July 25: The government on Wednesday agreed to form a select committee to scrutinise the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill but confusion remained whether it would be passed this monsoon session.

As soon as Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel rose to speak about sending the Bill to a select committee, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad opposed him, saying “it has to be in the next session”.

Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu urged Azad to let the minister move the motion but he did not relent and opposed it.

“It will be in a rush, and it will be passed. Which select committee has given its report in seven days,” he asked even as the Chairman assured him that it would not be passed.

Goel said it was agreed upon that at least 10 days should be given as sought by the deputy leader of the Congress. “We are ready to extend it by two more days,” he said.

Goel also said that the government has tried to ensure representation of almost every party in the committee.

Congress member Anand Sharma said the Bill needs parliamentary scrutiny.

“If the government feels the necessity to bring the amendment, that justification has to be established through scrutiny of Parliament. The select committee will call experts and all the stakeholders,” he said.

He also raised the issue of representation of political parties in the committee.

As the matter generated heat, Naidu gave directions to the government saying “Rework, discuss and come tomorrow.”

The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on July 25 by Minister of State for Culture Mahesh Sharma, but it could not be taken up as the Opposition members, including the Congress, protested and demanded that it be sent to a select committee.

The demand was supported by the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Left parties, the DMK, the RJD and others.

The Chairman then took sense of the House and asked the Parliamentary Affairs Minister to discuss the issue with all the political parties and come back to the House.

The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on July 18, 2017 by Mahesh Sharma and was passed by the Lower House in January. Since then it is pending in the Rajya Sabha.

The Act defines a ‘prohibited area’ as an area of 100 meters around a protected monument. The Central government can extend the prohibited area beyond 100 meters.

The Act does not permit construction in such prohibited areas, except under certain conditions. It also does not allow construction in ‘prohibited areas’ even if it is for public purposes.

The Bill amends this provision to permit construction of public works in ‘prohibited areas.’