New Delhi, August 25
In a major relief to 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorjee, the Supreme Court today stayed the Himachal Pradesh High Court order allowing criminal proceedings against him in a case of money laundering and illegal land deal.
A Bench comprising Justices MB Lokur and SA Bobde passed the order after the Karmapa’s senior counsel Harish Salve and Siddharth Luthra questioned the motive of the complainant in the case who was from Sikkim. The Bench also issued notice to the state government seeking its response to the Karmapa’s plea for setting aside the HC ruling.
On July 8, the HC had quashed an order by a trial court in Una to drop charges against 17th Karmapa in the case. A single bench of Justice Sureshwar Thakur had directed the state government to go ahead with the trial in accordance with law.
“The entire episode reeks of money laundering... The impugned order rendered on May 21, 2012, by the judicial magistrate of Una is quashed and set aside,” Justice Thakur had said in a 48-page judgment. The Karmapa along with others was charged under various sections of the IPC following the recovery of unaccounted foreign currency amounting to Rs 1.2 crore from the Gyuto Tantric University and Monastery in Sidhbari, near Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, on January 28, 2011. The searches were conducted after the seizure of Rs 1 crore from a vehicle in Una on January 26, 2011.
The 30-year-old Karmapa is the spiritual head of the Karma Kagyu School, one of the four sects of Tibetan Buddhism. Born in Tibet, he had made a mysterious escape from the Tsurphu monastery to reach McLeodganj in 2000. He made the Gyuto monastery his abode while continuing the search for land to set up one of his own.
The currency seized (from the monastery) was reportedly meant for the purchase of 52 canals of land for the monastery in Sidhbari, where he also heads the Karma Garchen Trust. Another charge was the land was being purchased without seeking permission from the government under Section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, mandatory for all non-agriculturists.
According to the police, the entire money was brought in through 'hawala' channels. They said the 52 canals of land was bought for Rs 5 crore, and not for Rs 2.5 crore, "the amount was underestimated for tax evasion".
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