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  India   Government: Can’t get back Kohinoor, it was gifted, not taken by force

Government: Can’t get back Kohinoor, it was gifted, not taken by force

Published : Apr 19, 2016, 1:26 am IST
Updated : Apr 19, 2016, 1:26 am IST

Supreme Court tells Centre to be sure of response because, if PIL is dismissed, it will find it difficult later if it changes its mind.

Supreme Court tells Centre to be sure of response because, if PIL is dismissed, it will find it difficult later if it changes its mind.

The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that India cannot stake claim to the 105.602-carat Kohinoor diamond, one of the world’s largest diamonds which is now part of the British crown jewels and kept in the Tower of London, as it was not stolen by the British or forcibly taken out from India. It is set in the Queen Mother’s Crown.

Solicitor-general Ranjit Kumar submitted this information before a bench comprising Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice Uday Lalit which was hearing a PIL filed by the All-India Human Rights and Social Justice Front seeking a direction to the government of India to get back the Kohinoor diamond.

The SG, quoting a note from the ministry of culture, said originally the diamond was taken from a mine in Masulipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, on the riverbed of the Godavari. Until the year 1304 the diamond was in the possession of the Rajas of Malwa. In 1304, it belonged to the Sultan of Delhi, Allaudin Khilji.

[The diamond passed from the Sultans of Delhi to Babur, the first Mughal emperor. Centuries later, Nader Shah of Persia invaded and took the Peacock Throne, in which it was set, back to Persia. His assassination led to the stone going to Ahmad Shah Durrani.]

[A descendant of Ahmad Shah, Shah Shuja Durrani, brought the Kohinoor back to Lahore in 1813 and gave it to Maharaja Ranjit Singh (the founder of the Sikh Empire). Ranjit Singh helped Shah Shuja get back the throne of Afghanistan. Ranjit Singh’s successor, Duleep Singh, gave it to the East India Company as expenses towards the Sikh wars.] The East India Company gifted it to Queen Victoria, he said, and added it was not stolen out of India.

The CJI asked the SG “whether the government of India wants to make a claim or it wants the petition to be dismissed. If we dismiss the PIL, then if the government wants to make a legitimate claim later, you will find it difficult. The British government will say that even the Indian Supreme Court had dismissed the petition and how can you make a claim.”

The CJI pointed out that the sword of Tipu Sultan, which was taken out, had come back to India. The SG replied that it was bought at auction in UK by a businessman (Vijay Mallya), who is now out of the country. The CJI, in a lighter vein, observed, “Is the sword here or it has also gone out ” The CJI asked the ministry of culture and ministry of external affairs to file a proper affidavit in six weeks keeping in mind all options open and the fallout of the dismissal of the PIL.

“If a diplomatic call needs to be taken (to bring back the Kohinoor), it would be taken by the Indian government or external affairs ministry at the right time... The culture ministry will not take any initiative (to get back the diamond),” culture minister Mahesh Sharma was quoted as saying by PTI. Noting that the issue dates back to the pre-Independence period, he said, “According to the guidelines, if any of our antiquities is found anywhere after Independence, the culture ministry takes initiatives to get it back.” However, issues of antiquities before Independence “do not come under the purview of the culture ministry,” he said.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said, “After all, it is not that the present British government is saying this. I have checked up the history. It was by 420 (cheating) fraud. So we have to get it back and there is a very strong case for this in court.”

Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed was cited by PTI as saying efforts had been made since 1953 to get the Kohinoor back to India and the NDA dispensation should continue making attempts for its return keeping in mind people’s sentiments and emotions.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi