India could force Britain to return Koh-i-Noor diamond through legal action

© Jayanta Shaw
Indian legislators say they are exploring alternative channels to force the UK to return the priceless Koh-i-Noor diamond after the British government said it would not hand over the Crown Jewel to its country of origin.

During a recent three-day visit to India, the UK’s Asia and Pacific minister, Alok Sharma, said there is no legal case for the gem’s return.

That view is not shared by some in the Indian government. On Sunday an anonymous senior source told the Times of India: “The government is considering both diplomatic as well as legal channels to get back the diamond.

If India is able to get back the diamond through diplomatic efforts, then it would not go for the legal channel. But if that does not fructify, then the government will explore legal option,” the source said.

India and a number of civil society groups have long fought for the diamond’s return. Even neighboring Pakistan has staked its claim.

Pakistan argues the diamond was taken from the Punjab, which before partition was part of British India. It launched a legal bid in December 2015.

In November 2015 a group of Bollywood stars and businessmen also attempted to bring a legal case before UK courts to have the jewel returned.

The case won the support of Labour MP Keith Vaz, who said: “There is no excuse for not returning precious items such as the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a campaign I have backed for many years.

The Sikh community has also lobbied for the gem to be handed back. By the time the Punjab was annexed, treaties already existed between the Sikhs and British, they argue.

The UK Sikh Federation claims the issue is strictly “a matter between Britain and the international Sikh community,” rejecting both India and Pakistan’s claims on the diamond.