A treasure trove is the accumulation or storage of priceless items such as coins, jewellery, precious metals, diamonds, artefacts, or any other priceless stuff that is concealed or hidden away. Although these valuables have certain allure in myths, legends, and tales of explorers, pirates, and buried wealth, in terms of law, treasure troves frequently have issues with the property and rights of the owner or finders of such Treasure. If a treasure is found, the ownership of the treasure may vary from the finder, landowner, or government depending on the area and the specific information of the finding.
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Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878
The Indian Treasure Trove Act of 1878 was established to provide a legal framework for the protection and preservation of assets found as a treasure. The legislation states that the person finding such treasure must notify the government or local senior officials on discovery of the treasure. If any person avoids the same, then it could lead to a lot of problems and result in heavy fines or even imprisonment.
This Act was passed on 13th February 1878 and is applicable to the whole of India. The Act has a total of 21 Sections. As per Section 3(a) of the Indian Treasure Trove Act of 1878, the word treasure is anything valuable hidden in the soil or attached to the earth.
As per Section 3(c) of the Act, the owner of this treasure can be any person who has the right of ownership in any land or item under any reservation in a document that is of transfer and will be assumed to be the legal proprietor of such property or thing.
Procedure for Finding Treasure Under the Treasure Trove Act
Section 4 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act 1878 states the notice is essential by the finder about the discovery of the treasure. If the discoverer finds a treasure that is worth more than Rs 10, then they are required to promptly inform about such discovery to the Collector. The information of discovery should relate to the following:
- The specific amount of whatever is discovered, the nature of such discovered items, and the estimated value of the discovered treasure.
- The location where the Treasure was found by the finder.
- The date of discovery of the treasure.
Subsequently, the discoverer has a duty that he/she is supposed to follow, which is to either place the Treasure in the nearest government treasury or allow the Collector to decide what should be done with the Treasure. The discoverer is also expected to present the Treasure at the time and place specified by the Collector.
Section 5 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act, of 1878 talks about the appearance of claimants after a notice is issued to them for appearance.
After the Collector receives notice as per Section 4 of the Act about the discovery of a treasure which is worth more than Rs.10, the Collector will conduct the required investigation and will:
Publish a notification in the manner specified by the State Government. This notification should include that on a specific date, a certain treasure (describing its type, quantity, and estimated value) was unearthed or was found at a particular location (specified in the notification).
The notice should compel all individuals claiming ownership over it wholly or in part, to attend or send a representative to meet the Collector personally. This meeting should take place on a date that is not before 4 months but not more than 6 months from the date of the issuance of this notification.
After assessment by the Collector, if the place where the Treasure was found was under the possession of someone other than the discoverer on the discovery date, then the Collector must also provide a written notice with similar contents to this other person.
Section 6 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act, of 1878 states that if a person does not appear on such notice provided in Section 5 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act of 1878, then they will forfeit his/her right to the Treasure.
Section 7 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878, talks about Matters that the Collector will deal with or determine. Section 5 of the Act states that the Collector will decide the day for the appearance of claimants, and he/she will also determine:
- Information of who discovered the Treasure, its location, and the condition of its discovery.
- Information about the circumstances under which Treasure was hidden and the person who hid the treasure.
Section 8 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878, details that in case of an investigation conducted under Section 7, the Collector determines the Treasure was concealed for 100 years from the discovery date by an individual claiming ownership.
In case, the Treasure was hidden by someone from whom the Claimant has its rights, the Collector will postpone the case hearing for a suitable duration. This delay granted by the Collector is to permit the Claimant to initiate a lawsuit in a Civil Court to establish his right.
Section 9 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878, details that a Treasure can be declared ownerless by the Collector in the following circumstances:
- After an inquiry conducted by the Collector it seems that Treasure was not hidden.
- When no suit is instituted by the Claimant under Section 8 of the Act.
- When the suit is instituted by the Claimant under Section 8 of the Act and such a suit does not guarantee his/her right.
The effects of Section 9 of the Act are given under Section 10 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act of 1878, which states that after such declaration of the Treasure, the Treasure must either be handed over to the person who found it or be distributed accordingly where it involves sharing it between the finder and the owner of the location where it was discovered.
Section 11 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878, states that after the declaration is made under Section 9 of the Act and no person other than the Finder claims any right to such Treasure, then the Collector should handover the Treasure to the Finder.
Section 12 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878, states that when only one person makes a claim and the Finder does not dispute his/her claim, then the Collector will divide such Treasure between the Finder and the Claimant. The division of the Treasure is performed as follows:
- When the Finder and the Claimant have made an agreement regarding the disposal of the Treasure then such an agreement will be followed but if they have not done any agreement, then three-fourths of the Treasure is allotted to the Finder and the left portion to such person.
The Collector can also:
- Allocate the entire Treasure or a greater portion of it to one of the parties on condition that he/she pays a sum of money determined by the Collector. This amount will be equivalent to the share owed to the other party or the additional portion allocated to them.
- Sell the Treasure by public auction and distribute the sale proceeds among parties as per the rule.
Penalties under the Treasure Trove Act
Section 20 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act of 1878 informs about the Penalties imposed on Finder if he fails to give notice.
- In case the Finder of the Treasure does not provide the notice, does not fulfil the deposit or security requirements as per section 4, or tries to change the nature of the Treasure to hide its true identity, then the portion of the Treasure he/she received, or any money value, will be given to the government.
- Such a person can be convicted for a year, and a fine can be imposed on him/her per the Orders of Magistrate.
Section 21 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act, 1878, deals with the Penalty imposed on the Owner for abetting the Offence.
If the Owner of the Treasure does or supports a criminal act under Section 20 of The Indian Penal Code 1860 then his/her share or monetary value that he/her was getting will be given to the government.
The owner can also be convicted for such an act for a period of 6 months, and a fine can be imposed on him/her by the Magistrate.
The Indian Treasure Trove Act was passed to create rules for submitting reports and handling priceless items and wealth unearthed unexpectedly or during excavation work in India. The key objective of the Act is to protect India’s extensive cultural and historical legacy. The Act seeks to guarantee that priceless artefacts discovered in the nation are maintained, documented, and made accessible for studies and public knowledge.
The Act also tries to minimise conflicts and disputes among Finders, landowners, and the government by establishing a procedure for managing Treasure. The preservation of India’s heritage and past depends on this reporting.
FAQs on The Indian Treasure Trove Act
What does the word Trove mean?
The word “trove” refers to the collection of valuable items hidden away for a long time. Trove can also mean a collection of various documents and artefacts that are valuable.
Who has the power to acquire Treasure on behalf of the government?
The Collector has the power to acquire the Treasure on behalf of the Government under Section 16 of the Act, and he/she will also pay a sum equal to the value of the materials of such Treasure or portion to the person.
Can a person file an appeal against the declaration made in Section 9 of the Indian Treasure Trove Act?
Yes, any person who is aggrieved by the declaration made under Section 9 of the act can file an appeal under the Act within two months to the Chief Controlling Authority.
Who is the Collector under The Indian Treasure Trove Act?
Under Section 3(2) of The Indian Treasure Trove Act, of 1878, a Collector can be a person who is a Revenue Officer and has a charge of a District or any officer who is appointed by the State government for doing such work.
How will the disputes be settled under The Indian Treasure Trove Act?
As per Section 14 of the Act, any individual who claims their ownership can initiate legal action in a Civil Court within a month after the order. In this proceeding, both the person Finder and Claimant are named defendants.