New Delhi: India may not get back the Kohinoor diamond, the Centre has said, citing a 43-year-old law that does not allow it to bring back antiquities taken out of the country before independence.
Under the provisions of the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972, the Archaeological Survey of India takes up the issue of retrieval of only such antiquities as have been illegally exported out of the country, it 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,” the Culture Ministry said in reply to an RTI query filed by PTI.
The application was filed with External Affairs Ministry seeking details of steps being taken for return of Kohinoor along with a copy of a letter written to and response received from the UK in this regard.
“It may be noted that Ministry of Culture deals with return of cultural artefacts. Therefore the RTI application has been forwarded to Ministry of Culture,” the MEA said.
To a question seeking details of items which are in the UK’s custody and India wants to claim them back, the Culture Ministry said “There is no list available with the Archaeological Survey of India about the items in Britain’s custody”.
The RTI reply assumes significance as the Supreme Court had on Friday asked the government to clarify its stand on a Public Interest Litigation seeking return of Kohinoor to the country.
“Everybody is claiming the 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?” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur asked the Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar.
Kumar said he was unaware about it and would need time to seek instructions and get back. The apex court was hearing a PIL filed by All India Human Rights & 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 Tipu Sultan, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Rani of Jhansi, Nawab Mir Ahmad Ali Banda and other rulers of India.”