Court unhappy with non-cooperation of ASI officers in idol theft case, summons DG

, 2:29 PM IST

A special court has summoned the Director General of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) while expressing unhappiness over ASI officials “not cooperating” with it in a 35-year-old case of theft of an antique idol from an ancient temple of Takashakeshwar Mahadev in Allahabad.

The court said it was duty of every citizen of the country to preserve the antique idols which are national treasure and yet the ASI officials, who are witnesses in the case, are not cooperating with it. “It is observed that this case is of year 1981 vintage, instituted almost 35 years back and pertains to theft of antique idol from an ancient temple of Takashakeshwar Mahadev in Allahabad which was being allegedly smuggled to New York

“It is a national treasure, preserving which is the duty of every Indian citizen, yet the said witnesses from ASI are not cooperating with the court. It is their public duty to cooperate with the court in furtherance of fair trial,” it said.

“Let the summons of DG, Archaeological Survey of India, be served through Secretary, Government of India, Ministry of Culture…,” Special CBI Judge Sanjeev Aggarwal said.

A case was registered by CBI in August 1981 on a letter from the ASI’s director after the idol was stolen. The idol of Goddess Durga was allegedly recovered from accused international consultant Shree Kant Jain when he was trying to board a flight to the US with 14 other antique items. He and accused Kashi Nath are facing trial and are out on bail.

The court, which is recording evidence, was irked over the conduct of witnesses as either they were not conversant with handwriting of an ASI official to prove a document or they were not interested in deposing before it.

The court had earlier sent summons to the DG, ASI with the direction to send any official from the department to prove a report of July 1981 of Shankar Nath, then Superintending Archaeologist, but it was stated by one of the ASI official that he was not conversant with the handwriting and signature of Nath.

It had asked one of the official of the department to trace the person who could identify the handwriting of Nath. “This process is going on for the last so many dates. The witnesses who are being deputed by the DG, ASI, are either not interested in giving their deposition in the court or they do not tell the name of the person who could be acquainted with the handwriting and signatures of Shankar Nath.

“In these circumstances, the court cannot go on summoning one witness after another just to find out who is acquainted with the handwriting and signature of Nath. This is the job of DG, ASI,” the court said and directed the ASI DG to appear before it in person on September 29.