The Madras High Court has questioned the authority of the idol wing of the Police force headed by IG Pon Manickavel with regards to conducting searches and seizing antiques. The High Court pointed out that under the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972, only officers authorized by the Central government could do so.
The argument was initially raised by the senior counsel R. Shunmugasundaram for the accused. A division bench of Justices R. Mahadevan and P.D. Audikesavalu was hearing the anticipatory bail plea of filed by Chennai-based businesswoman Kiran Velagapudi (Kiran Rao).
IG Pon Manickavel replied that he and his team were fully authorized to conduct searches and seize antiquities by virtue of the powers granted to the Police by the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
“When we get credible information of a cognisable offence having been committed and when there are materials to suspect that stolen idols of Hindu deities are buried or concealed, we can search and seize,” he said. The judge then asked, “Who decides that they are stolen idols?” “I decide,” the IG replied. “Right from a Grade 1 constable, all the police officers are empowered to enter a property and seize articles which are alleged to have been stolen,” he added. The IG further stated that he relies only on the CrPC and that he looks up to the Antiquities Act of 1972 only for reference.
The Court then directed him to put his submissions in writing. The Court also directed the Center to file its reply on the Tamil Nadu state government’s proposal to have the idol theft cases probed by the CBI. The CBI has already stated that they cannot investigate the cases due to a shortage of manpower.
We have previously published a comprehensive report on the accomplishments of Pon Manickavel. Known for his no-nonsense attitude and emphasis on discipline, the recovery of two 1000-year old idols of Rajaraja Chola and his wife, Lokamadevi, remain the crowning jewel of Pon Manickavel’s illustrious career.