By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 22 November 2019
A retired official of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) has filed a case against the Department of Home and the Cabinet for denying him retirement home.
Kalsang Phuntsok, who retired in 2009, in his lawsuit filed with the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission claimed that the CTA violated his rights by denying him his retirement home.
“A retirement home is my hard-earned reward for my service in the CTA for 24 years of service,” Phuntsok says.
The defence lawyer Tsering Dhondup said that Phuntsok has been denied the home because he has a private home and has foreign citizenship (US), which make him ineligible according to CTA rules amended in 2017.
Phuntsok has been receiving housing benefits in the form of monthly rent since his retirement as the rules do qualify him for such benefits. His name was on a waiting list to be given a home, and he has been given rent benefits since then.
Due to the change in the rule in 2017, he was removed from the waiting list for a home.
Responding to the defence lawyer in the court, Phuntsok said that he doesn’t own a house. The house the defendants have been referring to belonged to his sister. The land was bought using an Indian proxy, as Tibetans do not have rights to buy land in many states in India, which includes Himachal Pradesh.
Phuntsok’s family had been given power of attorney to use the land by the proxy. However, Himachal Pradesh state passed a rule in 2002 that confiscated all lands bought with proxy, and that properties would be leased to those who were affected by the change.
However, the rule is yet to be implemented, and his family continue to live in that house.
Purchase of the land using a proxy and the power of attorney given to his family were pointed out as proof that he didn’t own the land. He also stated that he helped with the construction of the building, but the house belonged to his family and was built with his sister’s funds.
Responding to the issue of being a citizen of a foreign country, he said, “What about those who have citizenship of other countries but are living in retirement homes in Bylakupee in South India without any problems?
“But my fight is not against them. I am asking to have the same right.”
Quoting Article 8 (2) of the Tibetan Charter, he said that Tibetans in exile have the right to take citizenship of other countries anyway. “Why is it a problem to take citizenship of another country?”
The defence lawyer argued that the change in the rules was on the basis of the Government of India rules, which prohibit foreigners from living in the Tibetan settlements. Even any visit there needs a permission called Prohibited Area Permit.
Phuntsok also alleged that the rules were amended in 2017, but his retirement was in 2009 and he was put on the waiting list then for a home. “They are implementing retrospective legislation, which is unfair.”
The defence lawyer Dhondup said that there was no question of retrospective legislation because Phuntsok had not received a retirement home yet. “It’s not that we are taking back a home that he had already been given.”
Phuntsok’s is Case no 21 in the Tibetan court, which was heard by the new Chief Justice Sonam Norbu Dagpo and his two associates. The court will announce the date of the next hearing.