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Kiss playful, not predatory: Delhi HC dismisses PIL against Dalai Lama

Delhi High Court dismisses PIL seeking action against Dalai Lama under the POCSO Act over a kissing incident in 2023

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama speaks during a three-day teaching on Shantideva's 'A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life', in Dharamshala on Wednesday, June 06, 2018.

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama

Vasudha Mukherjee New Delhi

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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed against the Dalai Lama, following an incident where the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people was seen kissing a child on the lips. The court concluded that the Dalai Lama's actions were playful and not intended to harm the child, noting that he had already apologised for the incident.

Background of the Incident

The controversy began when a video clip from April 2023 went viral, showing the Dalai Lama kissing a boy on the lips and asking him to suck his tongue. This sparked significant debate and outrage on social media.

A confederation of NGOs and Jeroninio Almeida filed the PIL, citing concerns over child safety and calling for action under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

Delhi High Court's findings and decision

A bench led by Acting Chief Justice Manmohan, alongside Justice Tushar Rao Gedela, reviewed the case and the video in question. The court observed that the incident occurred in full public view and was not premeditated. The judges noted that the boy had expressed a desire to meet and hug the Dalai Lama, and the Dalai Lama was being playful and trying to humour the child within the context of Tibetan culture.

The court acknowledged the apology issued by the Dalai Lama on April 10, 2023, which addressed those who might have been offended by the incident. The judges also considered the socio-political context, noting that the Dalai Lama’s position as a religious leader not on good terms with a foreign power should be considered in evaluating the petition.

The High Court ruled that there was no need for further legal action, as the Dalai Lama had already apologised and the incident did not warrant classification as a predatory act. The judges stated that anyone personally aggrieved by the incident could pursue appropriate legal action independently. However, they found no public interest in the petition itself and dismissed it.

Petitioner’s argument

The petitioner argued that authorities should have issued a statement in response to the incident and suggested auditing religious places to ensure child safety. They expressed concerns that failing to act could normalise inappropriate behaviour towards minors.
“How the perpetrator hugged the child and then kissed his lips and then embraced him repeatedly before asking him to suck his tongue, is improper, inadequate, inappropriate, uncalled for and classified as an offence under the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act),” the plea stated.

In response, the court remarked that the government would examine the issue but noted that the matter lacked significant public interest. The judges highlighted that it was not appropriate to scrutinise every action of religious leaders and dismissed the petition, urging them to give it a quietus.
“There are gurus who kick people. We have seen that also. We can’t get into all this. Next someone will say they got a bad handshake. Give it a quietus. This is not a case to carry on like this,” the court said.

“The court finds that the respondent no. Four has already expressed an apology to those who may have been hurt... If someone is aggrieved, they can take appropriate legal action,” the court said.

(With agency inputs)

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First Published: Jul 11 2024 | 6:09 PM IST

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