The power to determine the antique value of gold, silver and other precious objects found in the vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple here finally rests with the Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). His decision on the evaluation process will be final and binding.

In the case of the priceless objects found in the vaults, the Director-General's opinion on their antique significance will be final. These provisions have been specified in the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972.

Under Section 24 of the Act, if any question arises about the antique nature of a manuscript, record or object, it shall be referred to the Director-General of the ASI or to an officer not below the rank of a director in the department authorised by the former.

The decision of the Director-General or his delegate alone will prevail.

The Act specifies the powers of the Union government for compulsory acquisition of antiquities and art treasures.

If the Centre deems it desirable to preserve any antiquity or art treasure in a public place, the government will have to issue an order.

The Collector of the district where the treasure is placed should issue notice to its custodian, informing him of the government's decision.

While laying out the formalities for acquisition, the Act clarifies that the power given to the government shall not extend to any object, an antiquity or art treasure, used for bona fide religious observances.

Cataloguing treasures

As per Section 14 of the Act, cataloguing, registering and protecting of treasures found in the vaults can be done without acquiring them. The process may not guarantee public display, but will help the cause.

A panel appointed by the Supreme Court and headed by the National Museum Director is now engaged in the task of opening the vaults and assessing the value of the objects found therein.

The Act was framed to regulate the export of antiquities and art treasures and to check smuggling of and fraudulent dealings in such precious objects. To give teeth to the Act, provisions have been made for compulsory acquisition and preservation of such treasures.

The Act was framed in 1972 for replacing the Antiquities (Export Control) Act, 1947, but it has been specified that the final authority for such assessment will be the ASI Director-General or an officer deputed by him.

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