Court Case against the Dalai Lama concludes: No Victory, No Defeat Either

Due to the on-going persecution of Buddhist adherents of the four centuries-old practice of the protective Buddha Dorje Shugden by Tenzin Gyatso, aka the 14th Dalai Lama, and his “Central Tibetan Administration” (CTA), following a ban of that religious practice, the Dorje Shugden Devotees’ Charitable and Religious Society took the brave step of filing a Petition to the Delhi High Court, New Delhi, India in 2008.

On 5 April 2010, after more than two years of struggle, the Petition was finally dismissed by Justice S. Muralidhar on technical grounds.

The major reason cited for denying jurisdiction was location. The government of India pointed out that this court has no territorial jurisdiction over a dispute. As the defendants are located in Dharamsala, the state government is to investigate the allegations against the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile. The Indian government does not recognize the so-called Tibetan government in exile.

Justice Muralidhar pointed out:

It is however clarified that the dismissal of this petition will not preclude any individual member or members of the [Dorje Shugden Society] to seek appropriate remedies as may be available to them in law” before the police in Karnataka and its state government.

It was further stated that worshippers of Dorje Shugden have a right to freedom of religion as enshrined under Article 25 of the Constitution.

Predictably, the website of the Central Tibetan Administration on April 20 claimed this as a victory for them, falsely stating on their website that “Justice Muralidhar’s decision had the effect of closing the doors on the possibility of similar complaints in the future.”

In fact, Justice Muralidhar clearly stated that by dismissing the case in its present form he would not express any opinion on the merits or demerits of the case, and he clearly pointed out in paragraph 12 of the Order (as mentioned above):

It is however clarified that the dismissal of this petition will not preclude any individual member or member of the Petitioner No. 1 Society to seek appropriate remedies as may be available to them in law before the appropriate forum”.

The court noted that the Shugden Society’s harassment and maltreatment accusations had not yet been lodged in a formal complaint to the local police authorities. This has led the CTA to take the Justice’s comments out of context, stating that the Petition had been dismissed due to ‘vague averments’ regarding cases of harassment and persecution against Shugden devotees.

The actual order in fact reads that they were vague statements because “the criminal law remedies available to the Petitioners has not been availed of by them” (para 8), i.e. the victims. This of course is likely due to intimidation and fear of further persecution.

Despite the CTA propaganda, it is clear from studying the judgment that there was no victory, but nor was there a defeat. The dismissal was mainly for two reasons.

  1. The Justice did not see a territorial jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court pointing towards the law and order institutions of the States of Himachal Pradesh (the seat of the Tibetan leader) and Karnataka (the site of the large Tibetan settlements Mundgod and Bylakuppe).
  2. He mentioned the lack of records in the local police files due to the absence of complaints by victims of the Dalai Lama’s actions.

This ruling in fact lights the way for future court cases in the coming years to be tried in the appropriate state forums, especially as and when individual victims garner the courage to make official complaints to the local police and the records of those complaints pile up. As the persecution continues and monks are still expelled en masse from their monasteries, there is sadly no shortage of evidence to bring against the Dalai Lama and his CTA.

As the Dorje Shugden Society said on April 22:

There is no question of win – lose here. The dismissal of the case is disappointing. On the other hand, this experience has given us a second chance to approach it in a better and more efficient way. Moreover, it also implies that collaboration and fraternity are priorities.

Also, our lawyer said that the Society can file a Suit and individuals who are affected can file individual Petitions. The society tried its best according to its ability. Of course the society is poorly funded. But this is not end of our struggle for religious freedom, human dignity and equality, since our cause is just.

And it goes without saying that those who walk on the path of truth often face challenges. Despite hindrances we ought to make an effort that no one should live through the deprivation of their basic rights, and pledge to promote love, compassion and tolerance in lieu of merely preaching them.

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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