HC stays ASI order withdrawing nod for excavations in Kerala

An excavation site at Pattanam in the suburbs of Kochi.  

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday stayed an order of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) withdrawing the approval granted to Professor P.J. Cherian, director of the PAMA Institute for the Advancement of Transdisciplinary Archaeological Sciences, for excavations at Pattanam and Mathilakam sites in Ernakulam and Thrissur districts of Kerala.

Justice Rekha Palli stayed the September 3, 2021 order of the ASI in which the permission granted to Prof. Cherian’s team on June 4, 2021 for excavation of Pattanam and Mathikalam sites till September 30, 2021 was revoked.

The ASI had cited that Prof. Cherian has been wrongly using its logo without prior approval and also collecting internship fee from students against the norms of research supported by the ASI.

Advocate Aditi Mohan, representing Prof. Cherian, argued that the ASI’s letter suspending the right of her client to carry out excavation is based on factually incorrect presumptions and has been passed without granting any hearing to Prof. Cherian. She said this was against the basic principles of natural justice.

Prof. Cherian, in his plea, said the project ‘PAMA Excavations at Pattanam and Mathilakam in Kerala’ has a multi-disciplinary team comprising experts from various universities along with online collaboration from foreign varsities.

On the basis of the ASI’s permission, Prof. Cherian and his team started the excavation process at the two sites. He had also requested the ASI to extend the deadline by a minimum of six months or for one year due to the hardships caused by COVID-19 restrictions and the monsoon season.

However, the ASI, through its September 3 letter, withdrew the excavation permission with immediate effect.

Prof. Cherian stated that the ‘Pattanam Excavations’ were the first ever multi-disciplinary excavations undertaken in Kerala. Pattanam lies between Kodungallur and North Paravur in the Periyar delta. Since the year 2007, archaeological excavations were undertaken by the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR).

The main objective was to search for archaeological evidence that would help to locate or identify an early historic urban settlement and the ancient Indo-Roman port of Muziris or Musiri on the Malabar coast.

The most striking material evidence unearthed at Pattanam is the enormous quantity of terracotta objects, ranging from sherds of a variety of jars and pots to roof tiles and bricks, Prof. Cherain said.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 11:45:32 PM |

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