Not worth it

Not worth it

Getting back trinkets from overseas is now the job of elected government, not the courts.

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The Kohinoor , one of the most famous diamonds in the world, was presented to Queen Victoria by 13-year-old Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last Sikh ruler.

This week last year, the chief justice of India admitted that nearly three crore cases are pending in Indian courts. Since the deadline for trial to end is still five years away, the number remains astronomical. The fate of millions depends on these cases. They vastly outnumber the small band of Indians out to liberate the Kohinoor from the Tower of London, a splendidly gloomy correctional facility of last resort for royalty, which now houses the diamond. The only benefit of bringing the Kohinoor back to India would be lower rupee admission prices for admiring the troublesome jewel. All else is sentiment.

The government has flinched from the sentiment of its solicitor general, who opined that the Kohinoor was a “gift” from Duleep Singh to the British. For over a century, historians, conspiracy theorists, nationalists and colonial offices in London hotly debated the circumstances in which the rock changed hands. In Amritsar in 2013, David Cameron had declined to reopen the matter. Which was tactically prudent, since a single precedent would invite claims from the former colonies which would gut the British Museum of its treasures. Only some relics from Sutton Hoo and Salisbury would remain.

The Indian courts could have followed the lead of the prime minister of the UK.

Bringing back black money, runaway tycoons and their misbegotten swords is now the job of elected governments. The government in office was elected to perform precisely this inspiring role, apart from the boring routine of governance. The courts already have their hands full with crores of pending cases, which must be urgently disposed. For them, the Kohinoor is just a red herring. Milords, in the public interest, please cease and desist.