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Contempt petition filed against Union of India over passport issuance to Tibetans

Lobsang at the Delhi High Court_in 2016/ Phayul File Photo- Kunsang Gashon

By Tenzin Monlam

Lobsang at the Delhi High Court_in 2016/ Phayul File Photo- Kunsang Gashon

DHARAMSHALA, FEB 20: A Tibetan photojournalist and an event management entrepreneur has knocked the doors of the Indian court once again following the latest hurdle in his quest for Indian passport – adverse police verification report due to lack of property.

Lobsang Wangyal, through his lawyer in the Indian capital, has filed a contempt petition against the ministry of external affairs which practically had failed to adhere to the court’s verdict of September 2016.

Speaking with Phayul, Lobsang Wangyal, photojournalist and director of Miss Tibet pageant said, “Through my advocate, I have filed a contempt petition under section 12 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 against the Respondents for willful disobedience and non-compliance of the order on February 14.”

The petitioner has also urged the court to direct the respondents to issue him a passport in accordance with the rules at the earliest and pass any other order as the court deems fit.

The Delhi High Court’s verdict on Sept. 22 last year in Lobsang Wangyal vs Union of India (case no. WP(C) 4275/2016) directed the Ministry of External Affairs to set a new rule so that Tibetans born in India between 1950 and 1987 and their children could apply for Indian passports.

The Delhi high Court’s verdict directed the respondents to deem Lobsang an Indian citizen and to issue him a passport with a period of four weeks in accordance with the rules.

Lobsang filed his application for passport in October 2016. Lobsang said he presented a letter from the Pradhan stating that he had resided in McLeod Ganj for the last twenty years to proof his residency. However, the police have compelled the Pradhan to write a new letter stating otherwise. This led to the ‘adverse’ police verification reports over his residency with the police claiming he did not have fixed property and assets in the area. “Why is it necessary to own property to be eligible for passport, are they saying a poor man can not have a passport?” retorts Lobsang.

The hearing for the petition against Pradeep Kumar Sinha, Cabinet Secretary; Dnyaneshwar Mulay, Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs; and Rajiv Mehrishi, Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India will take place on Tuesday.

Lobsang had already surrendered his Identity Certificate (IC), a travel document equivalent to passport for Tibetans provided by the Indian government, and stands annulled. With no passport to avail and his IC annulled, Lobsang has chosen Goa this year for his winter recreational sojourn in place of Thailand.

“In a way I am being denied my basic rights,” he said, “Maybe they are going thorough with the procedures for future reference since it is going to be the first of many. I hope it is not persistent. If it is, then it is it going to be another problem.”

Lobsang Wangyal who filed the petition in May last year after pursuing the matter for over two years, questioned the Regional Passport Office (RPO), Shimla in his petition over the ‘unnecessary harassment’ by sending two ‘vague and flimsy’ Show Cause Notice (SCN/307568410/16 and SCN/307844816/16).

“The two show cause notices are vague and flimsy and does not require the petitioner to furnish or disclose any specific information. These notices have been issued to unnecessarily harass the petitioner,” reads the petition filed by advocate Giriraj Subramanium of Giriraj Chambers, representing Lobsang.

In the past, Delhi High Court and Karnataka high Court ruled in favor of two Tibetans who successfully acquired their passports based on the same premise. Some sections of the Tibetan community have welcomed it and some view the pursuit of Indian citizenship as abandonment of Tibetan identity and diversion from the Tibetan struggle.

Lobsang Wangyal in an earlier report told Phayul, “As far as I am concerned, obtaining an Indian passport doesn’t mean abandoning allegiance to the CTA or turning away from the free Tibet movement.”