The 105-carat Koh-i-Noor, which is currently part of the crown jewels of the United Kingdom, was gifted to Britain and not stolen, the Indian government told the country’s Supreme Court Monday. The court is hearing a suit filed by the All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front, which wants the diamond returned to India.
“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,” India’s Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar reportedly told the court, referring to the 19th century ruler of Punjab — now divided between India and Pakistan — who acquired the diamond from the Afghan king who had earlier sought sanctuary in India.
Prior to that, it was in Persian royal hands.
The diamond was reportedly presented to Queen Victoria in 1850 by Ranjit Singh’s minor son Dalip Singh at his father's behest. Today, it is set in the front of the Queen Mother’s Crown, which is on display in the jewel house in the Tower of London.
Although at least four nations — India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan — staked claim on the stone, the British government has consistently refused to give it up. Most recently, in 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron rejected the demands, stating that he did not believe in “returnism.”
“I don’t think that’s the right approach,” Cameron said at the time. “The right answer is for the British Museum and other cultural institutions to do exactly what they do, which is to link up with other institutions around the world to make sure that the things which we have and look after so well are properly shared with people around the world.”