Kohinoor gifted, not stolen: Govt

Kohinoor gifted, not stolen: Govt

Says difficult to reclaim

Kohinoor gifted, not stolen: Govt

 The Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that the Kohinoor diamond was not stolen but gifted to the East India Company, so it is difficult to reclaim the precious piece of Crown jewels of the United Kingdom.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar submitted before a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice U U Lalit that the Kohinoor was gifted as “compensation” in the 19th century by Maharaja Ranjit Singh for the help rendered by the British in the Anglo-Sikh war. It was neither stolen nor forcibly taken away, he added.

“If we make claim over it, similar demands may be made by several other countries. There would be nothing left in our museums,” he said, citing a letter by Pt Jawaharlal Nehru in 1936 stating that the Kohinoor cannot be categorised as an object stolen from the country.

The submission, made in response to a PIL filed by All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front, immediately invited reaction from the bench, which said: “We have never made other countries our colony, instead we were colonised.”

The court asked Kumar to clarify the Union government’s position within six weeks after the solicitor general submitted that he was yet to take instruction from the Ministry of External Affairs on the issue.

“If we dismiss the petition, it may affect your (government) legitimate claim in future. You must formulate your response after considering all views. You are also dealing with a sovereign country,” the bench told Kumar.

As the government's stand took many by surprise, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said if any call on bringing back the Kohinoor is required to be taken, it will be at the
diplomatic level. At the outset, the solicitor general related chronology of events, based on the culture ministry’s briefing, leading to discovery of the diamond in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh in the 14th century and how it changed several hands before landing finally in the British Crown’s jewels.   The 108-carat Kohinoor diamond is the subject of a historic ownership dispute and claimed by at least four countries, including India.

Besides the PIL in the apex court seeking direction to the government to make efforts to bring back the Kohinoor, move is reportedly on in other countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to reclaim it.

There have earlier been demands from Parliament to bring stolen articles, kept at museums abroad. The UK government had in 2010 rejected the demand made by the Archeological Survey of India to return the Kohinoor diamond and other articles, stating the British Museum Act, 1963, which prevents national museums from removing items.

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