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Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Indian ex-royals lose battle for gold
Gold bars
The fate of the gold has been a long-running battle

One of the wealthiest former royal families in the Indian state of Rajasthan has lost a long-running legal battle over the ownership of nearly 600 kilograms of gold.

A court ruled that the gold, which was seized from a fort belonging to Jaipur's royal family by the federal government nearly 30 years ago, should be handed over to the state.


The gold... was listed as the private property of Maharaja Man Singh of Jaipur

Lawyer for the former royals
According to the state counsel Dr Arjun Singh Khangarot, the gold confiscated from the royal fort was part of a hidden treasure.

Under the Treasure Trove Act, the ownership of any hidden treasure lies with the state government, he said.

But the government's claim was contested by the ex-royals in a legal battle which has continued for 15 years.

Private property

Members of the former royal family maintained that the fort was part of the family's private property and no one should have any claim over it.

Palace of the Winds, Jaipur
The gold was taken from the family's fort in Jaipur
The lawyer representing them, R P Singh, rejected claims that the gold could be categorised as hidden treasure.

"The gold seized by the federal government was listed as the private property of Maharaja Man Singh of Jaipur during the merger of the princely state with the Union of India," said Mr Singh.

"The confiscation was made under the Gold Control Act, and there is no question of applying the Treasure Trove Act in this case."

The ruling is unlikely to settle the dispute between the government and the royals, as the decision will be challenged by the family in the High Court.

Gold seizure

During the Emergency imposed in 1975 by the Congress Party Government headed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the authorities carried out raids on Moti Doongri, a privately-owned hilltop fort built like a Scottish castle.

Large quantities of gold were seized by the authorities, most of which was considered illegal as the government said the royal family had not declared its possession to the authorities.

Such raids were alleged to have been targeted at those not exactly in line with the government's policies - and the former queen of Jaipur, Gayatri Devi, was one of the most vocal opponents of the central government.

The issue of royal gold and its confiscation sparked off one of the most heated debates in the state as the former queen used to be one of the most popular state figures.

Since then Gayatri Devi, also known as one of the most beautiful public figures in India, has retired from public life. The issue has almost been forgotten as people of the state are now much less interested in the affairs of Jaipur's royal family.

Her son Bhawani Singh does not command the revered status enjoyed by his mother.

See also:

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