Family refuses to accept Padma Bhushan to ex-CJI

The Padma awards have plunged into controversy once again, with late Justice J S Verma's family informing President Pranab Mukherjee that they would not accept the Padma Bhushan conferred on him posthumously, even as a mystery emerged over whether the initial plan was to confer him the Padma Vibhushan.

Sources said the Padma award committee had initially mulled over conferring Padma Vibhushan, the second-highest civilian award after Bharat Ratna, on Verma, but it was not clear when it was decided to give him the Padma Bhushan.

Verma's daughter Shubra said some home ministry officials had visited her father's home-town of Satna in Madhya Pradesh early in January and had enquired about him.

“When I sought to know the reason for the enquiry, he (a ministry official) said father's name had been nominated for the Padma Vibhushan. Someone from the home ministry even visited our house here and said the same thing,” she said.

In a letter to the President, Verma's wife Pushpa said accepting the Padma Bhushan would be against his principles, as he never “hankered” after any such honour.

“The greatest honour to him remains how he is held in the hearts and minds of his fellow countrymen: as a true friend not just to women or the youth, but to those most in need of one. He never hankered or lobbied for any acclaim, reward or favour. We do not want to accept what we know Justice Verma himself would not have accepted,” she said.

“A serious insensitivity shown by the selectors has caused great concern. I find that former Chief Justice of India Verma has been posthumously given the Padma Bhushan—he eminently deserves the award—but the least should have been the Padma Vibhushan. But the insensitivity of bureaucracy is legion,” said former Delhi Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar in a statement.

Deccan Herald had reported in the first week of January that Verma was tipped to be conferred the Padma Vibhushan. However, when the awards were declared on the eve of Republic Day, his name figured among the Padma Bhushan winners.

The Padma Vibhushan is given for “exceptional and distinguished service”. The Padma Bhushan is given for “distinguished service of a high order”, and the Padma Shri for “distinguished service” in any field of activity.

The Padma awards are not conferred posthumously, but the rules say, “In highly deserving cases, the government could consider giving an award posthumously if the demise of the person proposed to be honoured has been recent, say within a period of one year preceding the Republic Day on which it is proposed to announce the award.”

Verma, a highly respected jurist in the country, breathed his last in April last year at the age of 80.

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