Eminent person who has concern and commitment for heritage conservation will head the panel

An eminent person who has concern and commitment for heritage conservation will head a 17-member Tamil Nadu Heritage Commission, according to a Bill introduced in the Assembly on Monday.

Except for nominees of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage and the Tamil Nadu region of the Institute of Town Planners (India), other members will be government officials or representatives.

Five secretaries of the departments of Tourism & Culture, Housing & Urban Development, Municipal Administration & Water Supply, Rural Development & Panchayat Raj and Law; Museum Commissioner; Archaeology Commissioner; Director of Environment; Chief Engineer (Buildings) in the Public Works Department (PWD); Senior Architect from the PWD and Director of School of Architecture and Planning, Anna University, will form part of the commission.

The State government will also nominate a person who is conversant with archaeology and another from any non-governmental organisation involved in heritage management and cultural affairs. The Superintending Archaeologist in the Chennai Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India will also be a member.

According to the statement of objects and reasons of the Bill, buildings or premises not covered under the Central and State Acts of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains will have to be protected. A statutory authority has to be constituted to advise the government in matters relating to identification, restoration and preservation of heritage buildings as also in such matters concerning the development and engineering options that are likely for any heritage building.

Essentially a recommendatory body, the commission will advise the government on a host of matters including the preparation of classification of buildings in certain grades of heritage buildings; alternation, modification or relaxation of any law for development, control and conservation of any heritage building and whether to allow commercial or other use of heritage buildings. It will also advise the government on guidelines to be adopted by private parties, which sponsor beautification schemes, and on penal measures for defacing or destroying a heritage building.

The proposed body will offer guidance to the government and local authorities on the making of provisions for restoration of heritage buildings and documentation of records of heritage buildings.

No local authority will be allowed to take steps for identification, preservation, conservation or restoration of heritage buildings not consistent with the determination or advice of the Commission.

Even though the Bill talks of the government and local authorities having to accept and implement the advice of the commission, the government, in the public interest, can call for and examine, on its own, any case of advice rendered by the commission. The government's decision will be final and binding.

An official said some aspects of the Bill have been drawn from the West Bengal Heritage Commission Act, 2001. The official added that one of the objectives of the proposed commission was to help authorities plan development in heritage towns such as Kancheepuram.