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22 Apr 2017

SC junks Kohinoor appeal

TT, New Delhi, April 21: The Supreme Court today refused to pass any directive to the Indian or UK government on a petition for the return of the Kohinoor from Britain, saying the Centre was taking sufficient diplomatic steps to recover the famed diamond.
Chief Justice J.S. Khehar questioned the logic behind the plea of the main petitioner, the NGO All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front, which seeks a directive to stop Britain from auctioning the gem.
"It's quite surprising the type of petitions that are being filed here. Can a court in India pass a directive to the governments in UK or US, saying do this, or don't do that?" the bench, which included Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, asked the petitioner's lawyer, Nafiz Ahmed Siddiqui.
The bench differed also with Sowmya Chakraborthy, appearing for the Bengal-based NGO Heritage Bengal, who said the court should direct the Centre to take all possible steps for the diamond's recovery.
After going through an affidavit filed by the Union culture ministry, the court said it was satisfied with the steps taken by the government diplomatically and there was no need to pass further directions.
Last April, when the public interest pleas were filed, a bench headed by then Chief Justice T.S. Thakur had cautioned that it would not dismiss the petitions as that could hurt India's future claims on the Kohinoor.
"If we dismiss this petition it will be read against the government. Tomorrow everybody will say that the Indian Supreme Court has held the gem cannot be brought back," Justice Thakur had told solicitor-general Ranjit Kumar, who had appeared for the Centre.
"It will come in your way to make a legitimate claim. Keep this in mind."
Earlier, Kumar had told the court that India had no plans to claim the Kohinoor and that the stone had been gifted to the British, not stolen by them. The next day, the government disowned the statement.
According to the culture ministry affidavit, "The government of India continues to explore ways and means for obtaining a satisfactory resolution to the issue with the UK government. It is reiterated that India's credentials regarding ownership of the Kohinoor based on historical evidence cannot be doubted.
"Keeping in view the above, the answering respondent (Centre) states that the Kohinoor, as also other Indian artifacts, manuscripts and items of artistic and historical value that are presently in the UK are a significant expression of India's historical heritage."

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