Koh-i-noor Return: Centre declines to share details

New Delhi  :  After first claiming that the 200 million dollar Koh-i-noor was neither stolen nor “forcibly” taken by British rulers but gifted to the East India Company by erstwhile rulers of Punjab 167 years back, the Centre has now declined to share details of its efforts to get it back from the UK, saying the matter was subjudice.

This response has come after a Right to Information query was filed by a media outlet.  “A petition has been filed in Supreme Court of India regarding retrieval of Kohinoor diamond from London, UK. Since the matter is now subjudice, hence no information can be provided,” the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said.

There has been a lack of consistency in the government”s stand on this issue. After making the statement that it was neither “stolen nor forcibly” taken by the British and thus ruling out its return, the government had observed the next day that all efforts will be made to get it back.

In the past as well, the ASI had said under the provisions of the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972, India takes up the issue of retrieval of only such antiquities as have been illegally exported out of the country.

“Since the object referred by you (Kohinoor) has been taken out of the country prior to the Independence, the Archaeological Survey of India is not in a position to process the matter,” it had said.

To a question seeking details of items which are in the UK”s custody and India wants to claim them back, the ASI, which functions under the Culture Ministry said: “There is no list available with the Archaeological Survey of India about the items in Britain”s custody”.

The apex court is hearing the 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 the UK, Pakistan and Bangladesh as parties to the case. It has also sought return of the ring and sword of Tipu Sultan and other treasures of him besides Bahadur Shah Zafar, the Queen of Jhansi, Nawab Mir Ahmad Ali Banda and other rulers of India.

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