The Supreme Court of India Decision Regarding Litigation in Sikkim District Court

The Kagyü Office of His Holiness the 17th Karmapa has recently been notified by its legal counsel that a motion designed to bring the litigation over Dharma Chakra Centre, Rumtek Monastery to a swifter conclusion has been unsuccessful. Although the Kagyü Office is disappointed with the news because it will prolong the litigation, the ruling by the Supreme Court of India was not unexpected due to the legal technicalities involved in the underlying suit. The ruling was collateral to the litigation pending in the District Court of Sikkim and has no significant impact on the continuing administration of His Holiness’s Office or Rumtek Monastery. The underlying case will now proceed, and the Kagyu Office is confident that the court system of India will resolve the underlying litigation in a just and expeditious manner.

The recent ruling of the Supreme Court case is related to a pending Civil Suit before the learned District Judge (East & North) Sikkim at Gangtok. The suit was filed in 1998 by the Karmapa Charitable Trust, Shri T.S. Gyaltshen, Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, and Shri Gyan Jyoti Kansakar against the State of Sikkim, The Secretary of Ecclessiastical Affairs and Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche. The plaintiffs seek to evict the monks and other occupants of Dhama Chakra Centre, Rumtek and to possess and administer the monastery for their own purposes. We have been advised by our legal counsel that the suit has no merit, and that the defendants to the litigation have numerous defenses to plaintiffs’ claims which will fully protect the activities of the Kagyü Office.

The Kagyü Office was not included by the plaintiffs in the original suit, and had not sought to become a party to the litigation until an order was issued by the District Court in November 17, 2001, requiring an inventory of sacred items being held at Dharma Chakra Centre. At the urging of interested parties in Sikkim, the Kagyü Office acted to calm the situation in 2002 and bring it to a peaceful resolution. At that time, it became apparent that this vexatious lawsuit could be brought to a speedier conclusion if the Kagyü Office was made a party to the lawsuit. Accordingly, the Kagyü Office asked permission from the Court for the Tsurphu Labrang to be recognized as a party to the original lawsuit by way of a motion to intervene in the lawsuit. This motion of the Tsurphu Labrang to intervene was denied by the District Court by order dated 16 November, 2002. The denial was upheld by order of the High Court of Sikkim on 26 August, 2003, as affirmed by order of the Supreme Court of India on 5 July, 2004.

The litigation now returns to the District Court for further proceedings. Denial of a motion to intervene in a lawsuit does not have any direct effect on the merits of the underlying lawsuit. This principle was reiterated in the denial of the Kagyü Office’s motion to intervene, where the Supreme Court held that “We, however, clarify that the trial court will not take into consideration any observations made in the impugned order or in the order of the District Judge dismissing the application.” The Kagyü Office is confident that the underlying lawsuit to evict and gain possession will eventually be dismissed for lack of merit.

The Kagyü Office