The Indian ministry of culture says it is still wants to reclaim the Koh-i-noor diamond from Britain, despite telling the country’s Supreme Court otherwise.
The Koh-i-noor diamond came into British hands in the 19th Century and is part of the Crown Jewels on show at the Tower of London.
Ownership of the priceless stone is an emotional issue for many Indians, who believe it was stolen by the British.
On April 18, India’s solicitor-general had told the court that it was “neither stolen nor forcibly taken”.
Ranjit Kumar, who was representing India’s government in the hearing, had said the 105-carat diamond had been “gifted” to the East India company by the former rulers of Punjab in 1849.
However, a statement by India’s ministry of culture on April 19 said the government “further reiterates its resolve to make all possible efforts to bring back the Koh-i-noor diamond in an amicable manner”.
Ranjit Kumar’s comments, which elicited surprise in India, did not represent the views of the government, the statement said. The official submission to the court has yet to be made, it added.
The case is being heard by the Supreme Court in Delhi after an Indian NGO filed a petition asking the court to direct the Indian government to bring back the diamond.
The court is still considering the issue, and said it did not want to dismiss the petition as it could “stand in the way” of future attempts to bring back items that once belonged to India.
Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, said in 2009 that it should be returned as “atonement for the colonial past”.
However, Britain has consistently refused to part with the gem – most recently, PM David Cameron said in 2013 he did not think returning it was “sensible”.
The Indian media, however, is divided over the issue with some papers urging the government to do whatever is necessary to secure the return of the diamond, while others question whether it should be such a high priority.
The Koh-i-noor diamond was last worn by the late Queen Mother and was displayed on her crown when her coffin lay in state after her death in 2002.