Pak court accepts plea to bring back Koh-i-Noor from UK

Lahore: A Pakistani court has accepted a petition seeking direction to the government to bring back Koh-i-Noor from British Queen Elizabeth-II, overruling the objection to the plea for the famed diamond, which India has been trying to get from the UK for years. 

Lahore High Court Justice Khalid Mahmood Khan yesterday overruled the objection by the court's registrar office to the petition which has named Queen Elizabeth II and British High Commission in Pakistan respondents in the case.

Koh-i-noor was presented to Queen Victoria during the British Raj in India. It is now set in a crown belonging to the queen’s mother on public display in the Tower of London. Pics/AFP
Koh-i-noor was presented to Queen Victoria during the British Raj in India. It is now set in a crown belonging to the queen’s mother on public display in the Tower of London. Pics/AFP

The plea filed by Barrister Javed Iqbal Jaffry made Pakistan's claim over the 105-carat gem on the basis that it hailed from the territory that became Pakistan in 1947.

The court directed the office to fix the petition before any appropriate bench for hearing.

In December last year, the registrar office's had dismissed the plea terming it as non-maintainable and said that the court had no jurisdiction to hear the case against the British Queen.

The petitioner filed a fresh application in the high court pleading that in Britain the Queen is respondent in every case. "Why not she can be made respondent in a case in Pakistan," he argued in the court.

In the petition, Jaffry argued that Britain "forcibly and under duress" stole the diamond from Daleep Singh, grandson of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, and took it to Britain. "The diamond became part of the crown of incumbent Queen Elizabeth-II at the time of her crowing in 1953. Queen Elizabeth has no right on the Koh-i-Noor diamond," he said.

The London-trained lawyer said that he has written 786 letters to the Queen and to Pakistani officials before filing the lawsuit. 

"Koh-i-Noor was not legitimately acquired. Grabbing and snatching it was a private, illegal act which is justified by no law or ethics. A wrong is a wrong. It does not become righteous or right by passage of time or even acquiescence," he said in the petition.

Claiming that the diamond was cultural heritage of Punjab province and its citizens owned it in fact, he sought direction to the government to bring the diamond back to Pakistan from the UK.

The Koh-i-Noor is one of the Crown Jewels and is now on display in the Tower of London.

India has made regular requests for the jewel's return, saying the diamond is an integral part of the country's history and culture. 

India says that Koh-i-Noor was illegally acquired and demands that it should be returned along with other treasures looted during colonial rule.

The Koh-i-Noor was mined in medieval times in the Kollur mine in Andhra Pradesh's Guntur district. The diamond was originally owned by the Kakatiya Dynasty, which had installed it in a temple of a Hindu goddess as her eye. 

Reportedly, in 1849, after the conquest of the Punjab by the British forces, the properties of the Sikh Empire were confiscated. 

The Koh-i-Noor was transferred to the treasury of the British East India Company in Lahore. The properties of the Sikh Empire were taken as war compensations. It passed through the hands of various invaders and was finally appropriated by the British in 1850 during the Raj.

India has been long demanding the return of Koh-i-Noor which was owned by several Mughal emperors and Maharajas before being seized by the British.

When Queen Elizabeth II made a state visit to India marking the 50th anniversary of independence in 1997, many Indians in India and Britain demanded the return of the diamond. 

British Indian MP Keith Vaz had called for the return of 'Koh-i-Noor' diamond to India ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the UK in November last year. 

Britain has, however, consistently rejected India's claims on the gem and during a visit to India in 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron had said in an interview on Indian television: "What tends to happen with these questions is that if you say yes to one, then you would suddenly find the British Museum empty."

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