By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 26 March 2021
The Chief Justice and two Justice Commissioners of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission announced abdication from their posts following their dismissal by the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile on charges of abuse of power.
A joint press conference was convened by the Chief Justice Sonam Norbu Dagpo and other two Commissioners Karma Damdul and Tenzin Lungtok to counter the Parliament’s charges.
“As law-abiding citizens and having long records of public service, we are accepting the decision by the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile to leave our posts,” said Dagpo.
“But we want to make it very clear that we are not guilty of any wrongdoing. The Parliament’s decision was unjustified and undemocratic.”
Dagpo said that the Parliament in their impeachment motion never talked about Article 40 of the exile Tibetan Charter, which the Parliament had infringed by cancelling the September 2020 session of the House.
Article 40 mandates that the House should meet at least once every six months. Considering the surging Coronavirus infections, the House standing committee cancelled the session.
Initiating a suo moto [taking action on their own] cognisance of the decision to cancel the September session, the court ruled that the decision violated Article 40, but the Standing Committee of the Parliament, consisting of 11 members including the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker, paid no heed to the matter.
The Justices then issued a judgment that penalised the 11 members by revoking their voting rights for six months, resulting in their inability to cast votes in the preliminary round of the elections on 3 January.
Dagpo also said that in the impeachment motion the Parliament talked only about Article 58 of the Charter, and the suo moto initiatives of the judiciary, which he said were irrelevant.
Article 58 pertains to the jurisdiction of the Parliament independent of the Judiciary, while the suo moto initiative by the Judiciary has been implemented from the time of his predecessor after the judiciary has been empowered to take suo moto reviews according to an amendment in October 2019 in the rules of the Supreme Justice Commission.
However, the Parliament in its impeachment motion charged that the Tibetan Judiciary has no right to take any suo moto initiatives, and that their ruling on the matter of cancellation of the September session was interfering in the matters of the Parliament, infringing Article 58.
Levelling as baseless the Parliament’s charges regarding Article 58, Dagpo said they only oversaw the rules rather than interfering in the dealings of the House.
He also said that the Judiciary has been empowered to take suo moto reviews according to an October 2019 amendment to the rules of the Justice Commission. The new rules had been implemented from the time of his predecessor.
He lamented that if the judiciary doesn’t take suo moto cognisance, who will safeguard the fundamental rights, legal rights, and social justice of the Tibetan people.
“How would there be checks and balances, and protection of the rights of the Tibetan people without the judiciary having rights for suo moto initiatives?”
Dagpo further revealed that Speaker Pema Jungney threatened the three justices with grave consequences if they didn’t take the right decision regarding their suo moto review of the Parliament violating Article 40.
In a clear sign of constitutional crisis, Justice Karma Damdul made an appeal to the media and the public to judge the entire episode in the face of lack of ways to ensure fairness for the justices.