By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 25 March 2021
The Tibetan Parliament-in-exile dismissed the Chief Justice Commissioner and the two other Justice Commissioners from their posts with immediate effect, for “infringing the rules”, bringing on a constitutional crisis.
The official impeachment of the Justices was passed in a secret balloting that had 31 members voting in favour of the motion, while 10 voted against it.
As the motion got more than two-thirds of the members in the House, the Chief Justice Commissioner Sonam Norbu Dagpo, Justice Commissioner Karma Damdul, and Justice Commissioner Tenzin Lungtok have been relieved of their duties with immediate effect.
The impeachment motion was introduced citing Clause 63 (IV) of the Charter of the Tibetans-in-exile, which pertains to the power of the House, that all matters related to Parliament will be resolved within the House without interference from the Judiciary.
In September last year, the Justices revoked voting rights of the 11 Standing Committee members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile for cancelling the 10th session of the House to be held in September. The cancellation was in consideration of the worsening coronavirus infections around the world.
After taking a suo moto [taking action on their own] review of the cancellation of the session, the Justices found the decision violated the Article 40 of the exile Tibetan Charter, which said there must be a session of the Parliament every six months.
The Justices, quoting Article 69 (IX) of the rules of Supreme Justice in taking the suo moto review, pronounced the cancellation of the September session as a violation of rules, and then penalised the 11 members by revoking their voting rights. The Parliament however argued that implementation of Article 69 (IX) was unconstitutional, and superceded the Charter.
The 11 members were unable to vote in the 3 January preliminary round of the 2021 Tibetan elections, as their voting rights had been banned till 11 March.
A constitutional crisis has arisen following the event, as the new Chief Justice must be appointed by a committee headed by the Chief Justice Commissioner and others.
Speaking to Tibet Sun, the Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament Pema Jungney said, “The decision to dismiss the three Justices is based on facts. We stand by the decision of the House.”
Regarding the confusion over appointing the new Chief Justice Commissioner, Jungney said that the House will amend the Charter in the next few days to resolve the vacuum. “A committee will be formed to draft the amendment procedures, and within one and half month there will be final rules for appointment of a new Chief Justice.”
In two months there will be a new Tibetan leader, known as Sikyong, who will be taking oath of office from the Chief Justice Commissioner.
The three Justices Dagpo, Damdul, and Lungtok are expected to convene a press conference tomorrow.