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Delhi High Court Dismisses Plea Against Dalai Lama Under POCSO Act

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea seeking action under the child sex abuse law against the Dalai Lama regarding a viral video where the 89-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader kissed a child

The court observed that the Dalai Lama was trying to be “playful” with the boy.

A bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Tushar Rao Gedela noted that the child had expressed a desire to hug the Dalai Lama, who was merely trying to humor him.

“This court has viewed the video and finds that the incident occurred in full public glare. It was the minor who expressed his desire and intent to meet and hug the respondent. When seen in its entirety, it can be said that Respondent No. 4 (Dalai Lama) was attempting to be playful and to humor the child. This must also be understood within the context of Tibetan culture,” the bench stated, rejecting the public interest litigation filed by the Confederation of NGOs.

“The fact that he leads a religious sect that is not in favorable terms with a foreign power must also be considered when dealing with such petitions. This court acknowledges that Respondent No. 4 has already apologized to those who may have been offended by his actions,” the court maintained.

In April 2023, controversy erupted over a video showing the Dalai Lama’s interaction with a child at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharamshala, where the spiritual leader and the Tibetan government-in-exile are based. In the video, the Dalai Lama can be seen inviting the boy to the platform, gesturing to his cheek, and receiving a kiss from the child before giving him a hug. The boy then asked if he could kiss the Dalai Lama, who responded by saying, “You can also suck my tongue.”

The Dalai Lama’s private office apologized in response to public outrage over the video. “His Holiness often teases people he meets in an ‘innocent and playful’ way, even in public and before cameras. He regrets the incident,” the statement issued on April 10, 2023, said.

The petition, filed through advocate Noopur Singhal, argued that the Dalai Lama’s actions were improper and constituted an offense under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act). The petition contended that authorities failed to safeguard child rights and protect them from sexual harassment, thereby undermining the system.

“The authorities’ lack of action could be detrimental to the future of 480 million children, which is more than one-third of India’s total population, preventing them from seeking appropriate remedies,” the plea stated.

During the hearing on Tuesday, lawyer Namrata Mishra, representing the NGO, urged the court to take suo moto cognizance of the incident. Mishra also requested the court to order the redaction of the child’s identity from media publications.

The court dismissed the plea, stating that the incident was not premeditated.

“It all happened in public glare. He (Dalai Lama) has a state that is inimical to him. It was not premeditated. To get into all this? It’s not a public interest litigation (PIL) that we will entertain. The government will examine it. We don’t want to get into this. There is no public interest. It is not a PIL that we should entertain. There are many gurus who even kick people. What do we do? It’s not our domain. We cannot get into this,” the bench remarked.

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