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43-year old law may not allow India to get back the Kohinoor diamond
While citing a 43-year old law, the Centre has said that India may not get back the Kohinoor diamond. The legislation does not allow to get back antiques which were taken out of India before independence.

Under the provisions of the Antiques and Art Treasure Act, 1972, the Archaeological Survey of India can take up the issue of retrieval of only those antiques which have been illegally exported or taken out of India.

The Culture Ministry in a reply to an RTI query filed by PTI said, "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."

An application was filed with the External Affairs Ministry to seek the details of the steps being taken to felicitate the return of the Kohinoor, along with a copy of the letter written to UK in this regard and their response received.

The MEA said, "It may be noted that the Ministry of Culture deals with the return of cultural artifacts. There fore the RTI application has been forwarded to the Ministry of Culture."

In response to a question seeking details of the list of items India wants to claim back from UK, the Culture Ministry said, "There is no list available with the Archaeological Survey of India about the items in Britain's custody."

This particular RTI reply has become significant as the Supreme Court on Friday, while hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by All India Human Rights & Social Justice Front, asked the Centre to clarify its stand on seeking the return of Kohinoor to the country.

The PIL was filed in the apex court for seeking directions to the High Commissioner of United Kingdom for return of the famous diamond along with other artifacts. The Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Culture, High Commissioners of Pakistan, UK and Bangladesh have been made parties in the PIL.

A bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, "Everybody is claiming Kohinoor. How many countries are claiming Kohinoor? Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and even South Africa. Somebody here is also asking for the Kohinoor. Do you know about it?"

The clueless Kumar said that he was unaware and needed some time to seek instructions and get back.

Changing multiple hands after the diamond was discovered in the 13th century, it finally ended up in the possession of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire and the last known Indian owner of the diamond, until his death in 1839. Kohinoor, which means "Mountain of Light" in Persian was confiscated by the British after the conquest of Punjab by the British forces in 1849. The diamond was transferred to the treasury of the East India Company in Lahore.

Kohinoor was later shipped to Britain and handed over to Queen Victoria in July 1850. In 1852 the Queen decided to get the diamond reshaped and sent it to Dutch Jeweler, Cantor who cut it to 108.93 carats (legend says that the original diamond was 793 carats). After Queen Victoria's death, the Kohinoor became a part of Crown Jewels. As per Queen Victoria's will, the Kohinoor could only be worn by a female queen.

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