Dismissal of PIL on Kohinoor may deny govt's legit claim: SC

The Supreme Court on Monday said the dismissal of a PIL seeking government action for the return of Kohinoor diamond from the United Kingdom may lead to denial of India's "legitimate claim" over the precious stone estimated to cost over USD 200 million.

PTI| Last Updated: Apr 19, 2016, 00:46 AM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday said the dismissal of a PIL seeking government action for the return of Kohinoor diamond from the United Kingdom may lead to denial of India's "legitimate claim" over the precious stone estimated to cost over USD 200 million.

The note of caution from the apex court said the government "cannot afford" dismissal of the PIL which may be treated as an "obstruction" in its future efforts to reclaim the 108-carat unique Kohinoor diamond.

The top court favoured a comprehensive affidavit after it was told that the stand of Ministry of External Affairs was awaited while the Ministry of Culture maintained that the historic diamond was neither "forcibly taken" nor "stolen" by British rulers but was given to the East India Company by the rulers of Punjab.

"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 (United Kingdom) may say that your Supreme Court has rejected the plea and it may lead to denial of the government's legitimate claim.

"You cannot afford dismissal as it may be treated as an obstruction in your way. You formulate a response and file it in six weeks," a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice UU Lalit said.

The Ministry of Culture's stand on Kohinoor diamond came through Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar who was responding to the question whether the Government was willing to lay claim over the right to Kohinoor.

"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," he told the bench.

Kumar said the demand to get back Kohinoor have been raised time and again in Parliament.

"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," Solicitor General said.

He said this was the stand of Ministry of Culture while the response from Ministry of External Affairs, which is also a party, is awaited.

The hearing also witnessed the reference of Sword of Tipu Sultan which was bought by Vijay Mallaya from an auction house in London in 2004.

"The Tipu sword was brought back to India," the bench said, evoking a quick response from the Solicitor General that the man who bought the sword has left country.

"But sword did not leave him," the bench quipped.