The government said on Tuesday it will make all efforts to bring back the Kohinoor diamond “in an amicable manner”, saying it had not yet conveyed its views on the diamond to the Supreme Court “contrary to what is being misrepresented” in the media.
On Monday, reports said the government had told the apex court it won’t request the return of the 106-carat Kohinoor diamond, which is now part of the British crown jewels. “It was given voluntarily by Ranjit Singh to the British as compensation for help in the Sikh Wars. The Kohinoor is not a stolen object,” he told the Supreme Court.
The court was hearing a petition filed by a rights group asking it to order the government to seek the return of the diamond.
The two-judge bench said it did not want to issue a ruling that might jeopardise a future attempt to bring back the diamond or other treasures that once belonged to India. It told the government to take six weeks to reconsider its position before the court decides whether to dismiss the petition.
On Tuesday, the government said the factual position is that the matter is sub-judice at present and the public interest litigation is yet to be admitted.
“The Solicitor General of India was asked to seek the views of the government of India, which have not yet been conveyed. The Solicitor General of India informed the honourable court about the history of the diamond and gave an oral statement on the basis of the existing references made available by the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India).
“Thus, it should be reaffirmed that the government of India has not yet conveyed its views to the court, contrary to what is being misrepresented,” it said.
“... With regard to the Kohinoor Diamond too, government of India remains hopeful for an amicable outcome whereby India gets back a valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history,” it added.
The stone was presented to Queen Victoria in 1850 after the Anglo-Sikh wars in which Britain gained control of the Sikh empire of the Punjab, which is now split between Pakistan and India.
Singh 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.
Its name translates as “Mountain of Light” and it is traditionally worn by a queen -- it is said to bring bad luck to any man who wears it.
In 1976, Britain refused a request to cede the diamond, citing the terms of the Anglo-Sikh peace treaty.
“I could not advise Her Majesty the Queen that it should be surrendered,” said Jim Callaghan, prime minister at the time.
Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has also said he would oppose returning the diamond.
“If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty,” he told NDTV television in 2010.
“It is going to have to stay put.”