The Kohinoor is currently set in a royal crown on display in the Tower of London.

New Delhi:  Disposing of a petition seeking direction to the United Kingdom to return the Kohinoor, the Supreme Court today made it clear that it could neither pass an order for reclaiming the 108-carat diamond nor stop its present owner from auctioning it. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar said it could not ask a foreign government not to auction a property.

“We are quite surprised that such petitions are filed for properties which are in the USA and the UK. What kind of a writ petition is this,” the bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and SK Kaul said.

The petition was filed by NGO All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front, and Heritage Bengal, a registered organisation.

The apex court said the government of India “continues to explore ways and means with the UK government on the issue” and it was “satisfied with the government’s response that it was making efforts to get the diamond back”.

Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma had told Lok Sabha last year that the Ministry of External Affairs is exploring ways for obtaining a satisfactory resolution to this issue with the UK government.

To a query on legal and technical hurdles in bringing back antique items, including the Kohinoor, Mr Sharma said, “The objects taken away from the country prior to Independence including Kohinoor do not fall under the purview of Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972.”

Kohinoor, which means mountain of light, is a large, colourless diamond that was found in southern India in early 14th century.

Successive British governments have made their stand clear on the issue. “If you say yes to one (request) you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty,” former Prime Minister David Cameron had said in an interview to NDTV. “I’m afraid it’s going to have to stay put.”

(With inputs from PTI)

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