The National Gallery of Australia will return 13 artworks associated with art dealer Subhash Kapoor, to the Indian government.
An additional work, acquired from dealer William Wolff, will also be repatriated.
It comes after Mr Kapoor was arrested and charged with looting antiquities from Southern India. He’s still awaiting trial in India.
National Art Gallery (NGA) Director Nick Mitzevich said it had taken seven years of research and investigation to make the decision.
“There were concerns raised following [Mr Kapoor’s] arrest in 2011 … the National Gallery initiated a major project, the province project, reviewing the works that we acquired from him,” he told SBS News.
The collection, worth around $3 million, includes six sculptures, six photographs, a processional standard and painted scroll, purchased between 1989 and 2010.
Some of these dating back to the 10th Century.
“These works are culturally important, and some are also religious objects. So it’s important that we honour Indian culture and return these to the country of origin,” Mr Mitzevich said.
Australian National University senior lecturer in art history, Dr Chaitanya Sambrani, said the gallery should have taken more precautions.
“I’m not certain if due diligence was thoroughly carried out during the purchase process,” he said.
Mr Mitzevich has confirmed other artworks in the Asian collection are also under the “live investigation”.
“Provenance research is really a core part of managing a collection, and where there’s concerns we have both a live investigation and ongoing appeals,” he said.
The gallery is working with the Indian High Commission and the Department of Foreign Affairs to officially hand over the works by the end of the year.
But Dr Sambrani is concerned the Indian public won’t be able to see them.
“What this will mean to Indians depends very much on whether the works are made freely accessible through exhibitions,” he said.
“There is not always a great deal of transparency around official dealings where Indian institutions are concerned.”
Additional reporting by Sahil Makkar.