COLONIAL RULE

Can't pass order to reclaim Kohinoor diamond from UK: SC

CROWN_KOH-I-NOOR_DIAMOND [File photo] The 108-carat Kohinoor gem, gifted to the East India Company by Punjab rulers, is the subject of a historic ownership dispute and claimed by at least four countries

'Government of India continues to explore ways and means with the UK government on the issue'

The Supreme Court today said it cannot pass an order for reclaiming the Kohinoor from the United Kingdom or to stop it from being auctioned.

Disposing of a plea seeking directions to bring back the treasured diamond to India, a bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar said it cannot ask a foreign government not to auction a property.

The court made it clear it could not pass an order with regard to a property that is in another country.

"We are quite surprised that such petitions are filed for properties which are in the USA and the UK. What kind of a writ petition is this," the bench, also comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and S.K. Kaul, commented.

The apex court referred to an affidavit filed by the Centre and said "the Government of India continues to explore ways and means with the UK government on the issue."

The petitions, filed by an NGO, the All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front, and Heritage Bengal, a registered organisation, were tagged together by the court last year.

The pleas had said "India won independence in 1947. But successive governments at the Centre have made little or no attempt to bring back the Kohinoor diamond from United Kingdom to India, the place of its origin."

"Whenever issues have been raised, central governments maintained on the floor of Parliament or in reply to RTI queries that Kohinoor is an Indian artefact, but claims for repatriation, thereof, cannot be made for the same is not covered under the UNESCO Convention, 1972. The lackadaisical approach of successive Governments in making positive and meaningful diplomatic parleys has not been in national interest. All attempts on the part of the petitioners and other right-thinking persons to activate the central government have failed," the plea said.

The Centre had earlier told the Supreme Court that Kohinoor was neither "forcibly taken", nor "stolen" by British rulers but given to the East India Company by the rulers of Punjab.

The apex court had then asked whether the government was willing to stake a claim to the Kohinoor, one of the most valuable diamonds in the world.

The Centre had then said the demand to get back Kohinoor have been raised time and again in Parliament.

Kohinoor, which means Mountain of Light, is a large, colourless diamond that was found in Southern India in early 14th century.

The 108-carat Kohinoor gem, which fell into British hands during the colonial era, is the subject of a historic ownership dispute and claimed by at least four countries including India.

The pleas had sought directions to the Indian High Commissioner in United Kingdom for the return of the diamond, besides several other treasures.

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

The NGO's PIL had 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." 

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