NEW DELHI: In a surprising stand, the Centre on Monday told the Supreme Court that it cannot ask Britain to return the Kohinoor diamond as it was gifted to East India Company by Maharaja Ranjith Singh and not forcibly taken away or stolen by the British.
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“Kohinoor cannot be said to be 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. Singh, in turn ,had taken it from an Afghan king who had sought sanctuary.
On this the CJI asked the SG if the government was willing to stake a claim to the Kohinoor, one of the most valuable diamonds in the world. The SG replied that the demand to get back the Kohinoor has been raised time and again in Parliament and said, “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.” But the SC was not convinced with it. “We never colonised others,” the court reminded the SG.
“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 (UK) may say that your Supreme Court has rejected the plea and it may lead to denial of the government’s legitimate claim... You formulate a response and file it in six weeks,” the Bench said.