The 108-carat Kohinoor diamond, estimated to cost around $200 million, was neither stolen nor “forcibly” taken by the British rulers but given to East India Company by the erstwhile rulers of Punjab 167 years back, the government on Monday told the Supreme Court, which wanted legal remedies to be kept open to get it back.
“Kohinoor cannot be said to have been forcibly taken or stolen as it was given by the successors of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to East India Company in 1849 as compensation for helping them in the Sikh wars,” Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told a Bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur.
On his part, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma ruled out any action by his ministry to bring back the Kohinoor. He told reporters that if any call on the matter needs to be taken, it will be at the diplomatic level.
The apex court then asked whether the government was willing to stake a claim to the Kohinoor, one of the most valuable diamonds in the world.
The solicitor general told the apex court that the demand to get back Kohinoor had been raised many times in Parliament.
“If we claim our treasures like Kohinoor from other countries, every other nation will start claiming their items from us. There will be nothing left in our museums,” Kumar said.
He said this was the stand of the ministry of culture while the response from ministry of external affairs, which is also a party, is awaited.
Hearing a public interest litigation petition seeking the return of the diamond to India from Britain, the Bench then asked Kumar to file a detailed reply within six weeks.
“We would like to know if there is a claim the government wants to make? See, we are not inclined to dismiss this plea. If we dismiss it, that country (United Kingdom) may say that your Supreme Court has rejected the plea and it may lead to denial of the government’s legitimate claim.”
Kohinoor, which means mountain of light, is a large, colourless diamond that was found in Southern India in the early 14th century.
The gem, which came into British hands during the colonial era, is the subject of a historic ownership dispute and claimed by at least four countries, including India.
( Source – PTI )