The Indian government has stated that the Koh-i-Noor diamond – now part of the Crown Jewels – was given to the British in the 19th century, and not stolen.
In a Supreme Court hearing, the Solicitor General for India, Ranjit Kumar, said the maharajah at the time gave the diamond away, and that it was not taken under British occupation.
“It was given voluntarily by Ranjit Singh to the British as compensation for help in the Sikh wars. The Koh-i-Noor is not a stolen object,” he said.
The East India Trading Company, and in turn Queen Victoria, were given the stone in 1850. Singh had taken it from an Afghan King seeking refuge in India. The diamond now forms a spectacular centre to The Queen Mother’s coronation crown, worn in 1938; the crown features another 2,800 diamonds.
Last year, a legal battle was launched to return the 108 carat stone to its homeland, claiming the diamond was stolen and should be returned.
It is the All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front that wants the Kohinoor and other famous antiques – including the ring and sword of Tipu Sultan – to be returned to India by the United Kingdom.
A similar bid in 1976 was refused, citing the terms of the war’s treaty. Prime Minister Jim Callaghan said at the time: “I could not advise Her Majesty The Queen that it [the Koh-i-Noor] should be surrendered.”
David Cameron was also against the move: “If you say yes to one, you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty. It is going to have to stay put.”