July 1997, The Karmapa Charitable Trust, the legal body given responsibility
for Rumtek Monastery by H.H. the 16th Karmapa, filed a lawsuit against
Tai Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche. The Karmapa Charitable Trust
sought justice in the courts after Rumtek Monastery was violently taken
over by Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche on August 2nd 1993 with the
help of then-Chief Minister of Sikkim Nar Bahadur Bhandari. The case lingered
in the courts for several years while legal arguments were conducted.
In 2002, the District Court ruled in favor of the Karmapa Charitable Trust.
The case was appealed to the High Court of India, where in September of
2003, Situ and Gyaltsab Rinpoches lost once again. They lost for two reasons.
Firstly, Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche were unable to prove they
had any legal right to take over Rumtek Monastery. Secondly, Situ and
Gyaltsab Rinpoche lied too many times to the court. As lies piled up,
each lie would contradict the next. In the end, Gyaltsab Rinpoche asked
if a settlement could be reached between himself and the Karmapa Charitable
Trust. The Chief Executive Trustee, Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche, agreed to
a settlement proposal consisting of seven points.
The following are the seven points of the settlement:
1. To conduct another inventory of the Rumtek relics,
including the Vajra crown.
2. If any relics are missing, Gyaltsab Rinpoche, for
his own part and also as representative of Situ Rinpoche, must inform
the court where they are hidden, sold or where they may be located.
3. To make a public apology that the two rinpoches illegally
took over Rumtek Monastery.
4. When Rumtek Monastery was taken over, more than two
hundred monks were living there, most of whom were forcibly evicted. Fourteen
monks remained and collaborated with the two rinpoches. Those fourteen
would be allowed to stay but the rest of the people that Gyaltsab Rinpoche
brought to Rumtek and who currently still live there must leave.
5. Compensation for the two hundred monks who were forcibly
evicted must be provided. The amount should be 50 rupees per monk, per
day, for eleven years. This amounts to about 40 million rupees, or about
one million dollars. The amount is negotiable.
6. Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche must pay all court
7. Gyaltsab and Situ Rinpoche may never return to Rumtek.
Gyaltsab Rinpoche was prepared to accept all of these points except for
the two requiring compensation, points numbers 6 and 7. But then Situ
Rinpoche summoned Gyaltsab Rinpoche to New Delhi. At this meeting, Situ
Rinpoche convinced Gyaltsab Rinpoche that they should not accept Shamar
Rinpoche’s terms. Doing so, Situ argued, would be no better than
losing the case in the court outright. Therefore, in spite of having already
lost in two courts, in early March 2004, Situ Rinpoche and Gyaltsab Rinpoche
appealed the case to the Supreme Court of India. A final decision by the
Supreme Court is expected in July 2004.