Five Buddhist monks from the Mahasantisukha Monastery in Rangoon are attempting to countersue the National Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, commonly known as the mahana.

According to one the monks involved, Uttara, the group’s legal team on Wednesday filed a legal motion against the mahana at the Bahan Township Court. He told DVB the suit was rejected; however, his lawyer later clarified that the motion had been “returned” but not “rejected”.

The five monks, apprehended by religious affairs officials and riot police on 10 June from the monastery — which has been the subject of ownership dispute between the National Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee and a revered abbot, Penang Sayadaw — were subsequently charged for Defamation of Religion and a 1990 law relating to insubordination and inciting “mutiny” within the monastic order.

On 22 June, the group were released on 20 million kyat (US$20,000) bail each.

Uttara, a British passport holder, said on Wednesday that the group’s legal team on 16 July filed a legal motion against the mahana at the Bahan court, but that it was “summarily rejected”.

“The [Bahan] court did not accept our motion – the judge said the decision to deny was based on ‘administrative grounds’ and not on ‘legal grounds’,” said Uttara.

However, Than Tun Aung, one of the lawyers representing the monks, said the court had in fact “returned” the motion, not rejected it, and therefore the group may continue to pursue the matter through other legal avenues.

“The court said that as per an administrative directive dealing with motions, the monk’s suit was ‘returned’ but not ‘rejected’,” said Than Tun Aung. He noted that the Mahasantisukha monastery is in Tanwe Township, which does not fall under the Bahan court’s jurisdiction.

“The court said we may continue by following other legal avenues,” the lawyer said.