Kohinoor was not stolen, but gifted to Britain: Government tells Supreme Court

The famed Kohinoor diamond was neither stolen nor forcibly taken away and India should not stake claim to it, the Central government has told the Supreme Court on Monday.

The statement was made by Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, who was appearing for the government in the court, The Times of India reported. He is reported to have told the court that the 105-karat diamond, which has become a part of popular culture, was handed over to the East India Company by Punjab's Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

It is now set in the crown that was worn by Queen Elizabeth's mother until her death in 2002, and is on public display in the Tower of London.

The Supreme Court on 8 April had asked the government to clarify its stand on a PIL seeking return of the Kohinoor diamond in the country.

A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur, which did not issue notice on the PIL, asked the Solicitor General to seek instructions in the matter within a week.

The Kohinoor diamond. File photo. Getty images

The Kohinoor diamond. File photo. Getty images

"Everybody is claiming the Kohinoor. How many countries are claiming Kohinoor? Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and even South Africa. Somebody here is also asking for the Kohinoor. Do you know about it?," the bench asked the Solicitor General.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said he was unaware about it and would need time to seek instructions and get back.

During the hearing, the bench, also comprising Justices R Banumathi and UU Lalit, said there has been a press report attributing statements to the British Prime Minister quoting him as saying, "if we were to accept such demands, British Museums would be empty".

"Why don't you approach the government? Hasn't the government taken up the matter? The government has done something. They have done whatever it could," the bench told the petitioner.

The apex court was hearing a PIL filed by All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front seeking directions to the High Commissioner of United Kingdom for return of the diamond besides several other treasures.

The PIL has made Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Culture, High Commissioners of UK, Pakistan and Bangladesh as parties in the case.

It has also sought return of the "ring and talwar of Tipu Sultan and other treasures of Tipu Sultan, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Rani of Jhansi, Nawab Mir Ahmad Ali Banda and other rulers of India."

Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who had handed over the diamond, in turn had taken it from an Afghan king who had sought sanctuary in India.

The diamond had been an heirloom of the Afghan monarchy and before then was in Persian royal hands, but its true origins remain a mystery.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2016 07:45:56 IST

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