KATHMANDU, June 16;Supreme Court Justice Rana Bahadur Bam was awaiting impeachment proceedings to begin in the parliament on corruption charges when he was murdered on May 31. At that time he had even been stripped of his responsibility for the past one and half years.
On Friday, the corruption-accused Bam had the distinction of becoming the first judge in Nepal´s history to attain martyrdom.
In its decision, which breached the existing criteria on martyrdom endorsed by the political committee of the cabinet on December 27, 2010, the caretaker government conferred martyrdom on the judge.
For a person to qualify as martyr, s/he must have fought for truth and righteousness, according to the criteria in possession of Republica. Similarly, such a fight must not have served his/her own personal vested interest so that the person to be honored with martyrdom will be seen as someone having a common appeal among masses. Finally, one will be called martyr only if he/she chooses death over life when offered the choice between the two.
The government however, was aware that Bam did not meet any one of those conditions.
"We know that the criteria have not been met but the decision was taken in view of the ongoing protests by court employees and judges," said Minister Dinanath Sharma when Republica asked why the government conferred martyrdom on Bam in breach of the criteria.
The Madhav Nepal-government had prepared the criteria in 2010, acting upon a report by a taskforce headed by Modanath Prashrit amidst criticism that honor of martyrdom was abused with people killed by criminal groups, during communal violence or even in road accidents being conferred the honor. The move was taken as an effort to discourage abuse of the title of martyrdom.
It was a custom to demand martyrdom and a purse of Rs 1 million for people killed one way or the other in Nepal after the April movement of 2006. The government was then compelled to confer the honor to such people as political parties bowed to the pressures from relatives or support groups that launched indefinite strikes and protests. According to the data of the Home Ministry altogether 102 people have been conferred martyrdom after the success of the people´s uprising in April 2006. This list excluded over 7,000 Maoist leaders and cadres who were declared martyrs by the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led government in 2009.
"Even a person serving life imprisonment has been declared martyr [under political pressure] after he died in prison," said former home secretary Govind Kusum making a point on how martyrdom has been abused in recent years.
Not only Bam was conferred the martyrdom, the government also decided to give one million rupees in lump some as compensation to his family.
According to the report endorsed by the political committee of the cabinet in 2010, a martyr´s family should not be given money in lump sum. It further says giving cash in lump sum is against the very spirit of martyrdom but says the government can support the families if they are in need of any help. More importantly, the government should construct parks, publish postal stamps, build schools and university in the name of martyrs to honor their sacrifice, according to the report.
Civil society members and general public have opposed the latest government move.
"The government decision is an attempt to hide its failure [to maintain law and order]. If a person who dies unnaturally were to be declared martyr, why did the government not confer martyrdom to those who died in the Seti flood?" said human rights activist Subodh Raj Pyakurel protesting the decision.
"If the victims of crime were to be declared martyrs let us have a provision in the constitution to declare all such victims as martyr," Pyakurel further said.
Soon after the cabinet took the decision on Friday morning, social networks sites such as facebook were flooded with protests.
"Why doesn´t the government declare all those who committed suicide after failing in the SCL examination?" one Dipak Dhital wrote in his facebook status to protest the government move.