Medal auction: High court gives notice to Himachal government

Shimla, Nov 28 ( Taking note of media reports on the auction of a gallantry medal awarded by Britain to an Indian soldier in 1946, the Himachal Pradesh High Court has directed the state government to file a reply on the matter.

Acting on its own, a division bench of Acting Chief Justice R.B. Misra and Justice Rajeev Sharma Friday directed the state government to give its reply within three weeks on the planned Dec 2 auction of the George Cross medal.

The auction is being held by Britain’s auction house Dix Noonan Webb. The medal was given posthumously to Naik Kirpa Ram and reportedly stolen from the house of his widow.

The head of auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, based in Mayfair, London, said Naik Kirpa Ram’s George Cross medal was “disposed of” by his widow in 2000 — and not stolen from her house as she claims.

But Ram’s aged widow Brahmi Devi, who lives in a small village in Himachal Pradesh’s Bilaspur district, denied that she had ever sold the medal.

“Even though I have been living in abject poverty, I could not have parted with the last remembrance of my husband that I had,” Devi told IANS on phone from her home in Bharpal village.

Meanwhile, the Himachal Pradesh police has contacted the British police and requested them to stop the auction.

Additional Director General of Police I.D. Bhandari said: “We have spoken to British police officers and they claimed that the auction house has necessary documents that claim the medal was sold by the widow.”

“But still, they are conducting a probe on the basis of information and evidences provided by us. We are confident that the auction would be stalled.”

Dix said the auction will go ahead. “The legal title is clearly passed.”

Naik Kirpa Ram was awarded the medal for sacrificing his life to save his army comrades from harm while disposing of a misfired rifle grenade at a camp in Bangalore Sep 12, 1945. Brahmi Devi received the medal from the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Lord Wavell, at the age of 13.

The medal, which was awarded posthumously to Ram of the Frontier Force Rifles in 1946, could fetch around 20,000 pounds at the auction, but Brahmi Devi is trying to stop the sale, saying the medal was stolen from her house in 2002.