CHENNAI: Though India has a plethora of historic monuments, the country does not have a special legislation to protect its heritage structures even 38 years after it became signatory to Unesco's world heritage convention, the Madras high court has observed.

"A large number of monuments are stated to be unprotected by Archaeological Survey of India or state governments, without a comprehensive list of their sites, despite the 1972 Unesco World Heritage Convention, having been ratified by India in 1977," said the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Pushpa Satyanarayana recently. 

The bench was hearing a suo motu PIL proceedings initiated after media reports highlighting improper 'renovation' works being undertaken by Tamil Nadu government authorities, resulting in damage to idols and heritage temples. The court has appointed its own committee headed by senior advocate P S Raman as amicus curiae. The committee has already submitted two interim reports. An ardent devotee, Rangarajan Narasimhan, too has filed a separate PIL on the issue. 

Though a National Commission for the Heritage Sites Bill was introduced in 2009, nothing has come of it, the bench rued. As for the state of ancient temples in Tamil Nadu, as reported by the amicus curiae, the judges said that if repairs and renovation works went on ignoring essentials, "then there is every possibility of more destruction rather than repair and renovation." In the light of the fact that the government and its department lacked expertise to do works on ancient structures, the judges said authorities must consider the suggestions made by historian R Nagaswamy, who said a trained conservation engineering corps must be created. Indian Institute Technology, Madras too could be involved, the court said, adding that with the assistance of Unesco international teachers and persons with relevant expertise and equipment should be roped in.