‘Kohinoor represents sentiments of people’

India’s credentials regarding the ownership of the product was based on historical evidence, says Centre to Supreme Court

Updated - December 02, 2016 03:28 pm IST

Published - November 15, 2016 12:21 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Over 167 years after the Kohinoor diamond was “duplicitously confiscated” by the East India Company from a minor Indian maharaja, the Centre told the Supreme Court that the diamond, though a “symbol of victory” for the British Empire, represented the “sentiments of the people of India.”

The seven-page affidavit filed by the Centre said India’s credentials regarding the ownership of the Kohinoor diamond was based on historical evidence and could not be doubted.

The affidavit was filed by the Ministry of Culture exactly two months before British Prime Minister Theresa May visited India to bolster trade ties between both countries.

The affidavit has an open-ended conclusion, saying the government was “continuing to explore ways for a satisfactory resolution” over the diamond with the U.K. The affidavit was perused by a Bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur recently on a petition filed by the All India Human Rights and Social Front against the High Commissioner of the U.K.

‘Act toothless’

The affidavit said the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972 was toothless as the British East India Company confiscated the Kohinoor diamond from the boy king, Maharaja Duleep Singh, in 1849.

Though both India and the U.K. were signatories to the UNESCO Convention on Means of Prohibiting and Preventing Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, a restitution of Kohinoor would require a “special agreement” between both countries.

In an earlier hearing, the Centre represented by Solicitor-General Ranjit Kumar had submitted that if “we start claiming the treasures from the museums of other countries, they will claim their treasures from our museums.” To this, the CJI had said “this country has never colonised other nations. The precious artefacts in our museums were gifts.”

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