New Delhi/June 8
The wife of Corporal Kirpa Ram, who was awarded Britain’s highest award for bravery in peacetime George Cross, was ordered by the High Court of Justice of Queen’s Bench Division to pay 12,000 pounds (Rs 10,37,787) to get the possession of medal back.
The medal had attracted controversy after it had appeared for auction in Mayfair Auction house in London after which Brahmi Devi, the wife of Kirpa Ram, had claimed that she hadn’t gifted the medal to anyone, however, it was stolen in 2002 from a trunk that contained Corporal’s possessions.
Meanwhile, the auction house had presented documents and a DVD in support of their claim that Brahmi had gifted the medal at her own will to a person who later sold to a Delhi based person and the Mayfair auction house had bought from the dealer.
A Queens Court bench on June 5 ordered the defendant in the case, Brahmi Devi to pay Ashok Nath ‘by way of contribution to his costs and expenses of this action’ by December 13, 2013.
The medal and the medal group till then will remain in the custody of the Metropolitan police until the payment to the claimant of the said sum of 12,000 pounds and then it will be delivered to the Defendants’ solicitors, the Queens’ Bench ordered.
The controversy had become an international dispute involving the Indian government, Scotland Yard, Mayfair auction house and the dead hero’s 78-year-old widow.
Brahmi Devi was just 13 when her husband Kirpa Ram, a Corporal in British Army in colonial India and he had died when he tried to save his men from an unexploded grenade during a training exercise in Goa on November 12, 1945.
Kirpa Ram, native of Bharpal Village in Himachal’s Bilaspur district, was commanding a section on a field-firing exercise at Thondebhavi in Goa on November 12, 1945 and he was close to a Sepoy who was firing grenades from a discharger-cup while remaining troops were in position beside him. A grenade that was to be fired fell short and landed only about 8 yards in front of the section position. Naik Kirpa Ram saw at a glance that if it exploded there many of his section would be killed or wounded. Without a moment’s hesitation he leapt up and dashed forward shouting as he did so to the men of his section, “Get back and take cover”. He picked up the grenade, but before he could throw it into a place where it could cause no damage, it exploded and killed him on the spot.
Impressed by his bravery, Kirpa Ram was awarded a posthumous George Cross, Britain’s highest award for bravery in peacetime on March 15, 1946, along with a citation that eulogised his fine spirit of sacrifice and devotion to duty.
Ram came from the Dogra Rajput clan, an ancient Aryan race that inhabit the Northern Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. Dogras have a long tradition of military service and in the early days of the British Empire they wore beards as a result of which they were erroneously known as ‘Hill Sikhs’.
George Cross award was instituted in 1940 by King George VI to honour acts of outstanding gallantry and it made of silver, with the words “For Gallantry” as described in the warrant and is suspended from a dark blue ribbon one and half inches wide, and is worn on the left breast before all other medals and orders except the Victoria Cross.
New Delhi/June 8