Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission

The Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission is the highest judicial organ and one of the three most important pillars of the Tibetan democratic administration in exile or the Central Tibetan Administration. It formally came into existence as per the provision of the Charter of Tibetans in Exile on 11th March 1992 (the seventh day of the first month of the Tibetan Water-Monkey year, 2119) in Gangchen Kyishong, the headquarters of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission is composed of the Chief Justice Commissioner and two other Justice Commissioners.  They are appointed by the Tibetan Parliament in exile through election out of nominated candidates submitted by the Selection Committee, which is constituted by a Committee of Chief Justice Commissioner, Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Tibetan Parliament in exile and Kalon Tripa (Chief of the Kashag/Cabinet).

In the past, the Chief Justice Commissioner and two other Justice Commissioners took the oath of office from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. However, since His Holiness’ devolution of all his political and administrative powers on 29th May 2011, the Chief Justice Commissioner is to take the oath of office from the out-going Chief Justice Commissioner or the officiating Chief Justice Commissioner. The two other Justice Commissioners are required to take the oath of office from the Chief Justice Commissioner.

About
Introduction

TIBETAN JUDICIARY

His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people, has graciously provided the modern democratic system of governance to the Tibetans in exile for their immediate and long-term welfare. With the evolution of the Tibetan democratic system of governance in exile, the 11th Tibetan parliament in exile passed the Charter of Tibetans in Exile in 1991. The Central Tibetan Administration in exile also consists of the three democratic pillars, namely the executive, legislature and judiciary. Whenever an issue of contention arises in the course of the Tibetan executive’s implementation of any rules and regulations, besides public and individual civil disputes among the Tibetan community in exile, the Tibetan judiciary (Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission and its subordinate Justice Commission) interprets or makes decisions thereof; thus protecting the rule of law by guaranteeing justice to all and making the institution of Tibetan democracy vibrant and meaningful.

The hierarchies of Tibetan Justice Commissions are as follows:

  1. Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission
  2. Tibetan Circuit Justice Commission
  3. Tibetan Local Justice Commission

Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission

The Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission is the highest judicial organ and one of the three most important pillars of the Tibetan democratic administration in exile or the Central Tibetan Administration. It formally came into existence as per the provision of the Charter of Tibetans in Exile on 11th March 1992 (the seventh day of the first month of the Tibetan Water-Monkey year, 2119) in Gangchen Kyishong, the headquarters of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) in Dharamsala in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission is composed of the Chief Justice Commissioner and two other Justice Commissioners.  They are appointed by the Tibetan Parliament in exile through election out of nominated candidates submitted by the Selection Committee, which is constituted by a Committee of Chief Justice Commissioner, Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Tibetan Parliament in exile and Kalon Tripa (Chief of the Kashag/Cabinet).  In the past, the Chief Justice Commissioner and two other Justice Commissioners took the oath of office from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. However, since His Holiness’ devolution of all his political and administrative powers on 29th May 2011, the Chief Justice Commissioner is to take the oath of office from the out-going Chief Justice Commissioner or the officiating Chief Justice Commissioner. The two other Justice Commissioners are required to take the oath of office from the Chief Justice Commissioner.

Responsibility, Power and Jurisdiction of Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission

The Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission is the final Appellate Justice Commission in adjudicating and redressing any civil disputes of the Tibetan Community in exile on the basis of procedure enshrined in Tibetan rules and prevailing customs for the welfare and harmony of the Tibetan community in exile.  It also has power and duty to formulate procedural rules and regulations as enshrined in the Charter of Tibetans in Exile. However, it has no authority and power to deal with criminal cases or any other objectionable cases relating to the laws of the host country.  The Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission has power to establish and dissolve any temporary and permanent Tibetan Local Justice Commission on the basis of needs for the concerned Tibetan community in the area. The Tibetan Local Justice Commission functions directly under the supervision of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission.

Since His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s unprecedented devolution of all His administrative and political powers to the elected political leadership of the Tibetans in exile on 29th May 2011, the judiciary has been empowered with new responsibilities and duties. For instance, the Chief Justice Commissioner has been entrusted with the supreme responsibility of administering the oath of office and secrecy to the executive (Kalon Tripa and Kalons), legislature (Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Interim Chairman of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile), judiciary (Justice Commissioners) and the Auditor General of the Central Tibetan Administration. Earlier all these top Tibetan officials took their oath of office and secrecy before His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Chief Justice Commissioner has now been entrusted with the new responsibility to also administer the oath of office and secrecy to the Chief Election Commissioner, two Additional Election Commissioners, Chairman of Public Service Commission and PSC Committee Members of the Central Tibetan Administration.

On 30th May 2011, the Chief Justice Commissioner Mr. Ngawang Phelgyal administered the oath of office to the recently constituted 15th Tibetan Parliament in exile’s Interim Chairman Mr. Pema Jungney.  And on 31st May 2011, he administered the oath of office to the parliament’s elected Chairman Mr. Penpa Tsering and Deputy Chairman Ven. Khenpo Sonam Tenphel in the presence of two Justice Commissioners Mr. Ngawang Thupten and Mr. Tsering Dhondup and members of the Kashag headed by Kalon Tripa Prof. Samdhong Rinpoche.

On 8th August 2011 at a public function in Dharamsala, the newly-elected Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay was administered the oath of office and secrecy by the Chief Justice Commissioner Mr. Ngawang Phelgyal, for the first time in the history of Tibet and the Tibetan people, in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Also present were Tibetan, Indian and international dignitaries. Then on 16th September 2011 the Chief Justice Commissioner administered the oath of office and secrecy to the other six Kalons in the presence of the two Justice Commissioners Mr. Ngawang Thupten and Mr. Tsering Dhondup, Chairman of Tibetan Parliament in exile Mr. Penpa Tsering, Kalon Tripa Dr. Lobsang Sangay, Deputy Chairman Ven. Khenpo Sonam Tenphel, Chairman of Election Commission Mr. Jampal Chosang and Auditor General Mr. Kargyu Dhondup. The oath taking ceremony took place in the hall of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission of Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala.Workshops and training

In addition to the primary responsibilities, the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission often organises legal awareness programmes for the general Tibetan public in Tibetan settlements in India and Nepal. TSJC also conducts intensive legal training for the Tibetan Local Justice Commissioners and legal secretaries (trim-drungs). Since its inception, three judicial conferences has also been organised to upgrade the functioning of Tibetan judicial system at various levels of the Tibetan community in exile.

The first Tibetan Lawyers Training was given in 1998.  There is an urgent need for many trained Tibetan lawyers in the Tibetan community in exile. Lawyers play an important role in the lives of the people and community. As such it would be useful to have as many Tibetan lawyers so that ordinary and especially illiterate Tibetans can turn to them for advice and guidance in filing required litigations in Tibetan Local Justice Commissions. It is with this in mind that we have since 2010 provided intensive Tibetan lawyers training to participants from various Tibetan settlements and other areas where Tibetans reside. In 2010 we were able to organise one such Tibetan Lawyers Training and in 2011 we organised two Tibetan Lawyers Training. So far we have 76 registered Tibetan lawyers. It is a significant achievement. We have had good participation from concerned Tibetan settlements in India and Nepal to the three consecutive Tibetan Lawyers Training we have given. We will continue to make rigorous effort to provide more Tibetan Lawyers Training.

Rules and Regulations of Tibetan Justice Commission

The Code of Judiciary, Civil Procedure Codes and Rules of Evidence books were formulated by Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission and approved by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 28th of February 1996.

Tenure of Justice Commissioners of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission

The term of the Chief Justice Commissioner is for five years or 65 years of age, or whichever comes earlier. Also for the other two Justice Commissioners the retirement age is 65.

Hierarchies Of Tibetan Justice Commission

1.    Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission

The Chief Justice Commissioner is the over all in-charge of judicial and administrative affairs of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission. The Office of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission is staffed with the Secretary General whose main responsibility is to look after the administrative work of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission and subordinate Tibetan Justice Commissions.  A Joint Secretary and eight other subordinate staff assists him. The current Secretary General of Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission is Mr. Kunga Dorjee and the Joint Secretary is Mrs. Tsesun Lhamo. Among the other eight staff members, two are law graduates from Indian universities. Efforts are being made to recruit more Tibetan law graduates, with good command over Tibetan language, from the Indian sub-continent and abroad within available vacancies with the aim in the future for them to take responsibility of holding Justice Commissioners position at the central and local justice commissions.

2.    Tibetan Circuit Justice Commission

The Tibetan Circuit Justice Commission is above the Tibetan Local Justice Commission in hierarchy having appellate jurisdiction. If a concerned person is not satisfied with the judgment given by the Tibetan Local Justice Commission then he or she can appeal to the Tibetan Circuit Justice Commission to redress that particular case.  For the time being the Tibetan Circuit Justice Commission has not been established, as the need for such a judicial body has not been felt in the Tibetan community in exile. Therefore, under the present circumstances the concerned person(s) can directly appeal to the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission if they are not satisfied with judgment passed by the Tibetan Local Justice Commission.  Once established, each Tibetan Circuit Justice Commission is to be headed by a minimum of one Justice Commissioner and related staff members.

3.    Tibetan Local Justice Commission

The Local Tibetan Justice Commission is headed by a Justice Commissioner and assisted by a Secretary (trim-drung) with two other subordinate staff. As far as possible and as per judicial rules and regulations, a suit or case must first be filed in the Tibetan Local Justice Commission. According to the needs of the Tibetan community in exile, the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission has authority to establish a Tibetan Local Justice Commission permanently or temporarily in each Tibetan settlement or for a group of Tibetan settlements in India and Nepal. As per Tibetan code of Judiciary, the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission can also temporarily establish a Tibetan Local Justice Commission with appointment of the Settlement Officer as the Tibetan Local Justice Commissioner, in addition to his administrative responsibility in that particular Tibetan settlement. This way, the Tibetan Settlement Office or Officer could also operate as the Tibetan Local Justice Commission or Commissioner within his or her area of jurisdiction.

a)    Tibetan Local Justice Commission for Northern Region

The Tibetan Local Justice Commission for Northern Region was established on 9th November 2001 at Dekyiling Tibetan Settlement in Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand. The current Justice Commissioner is a registered advocate Mr. Tenzin Lhundup who holds LL.B (Hons.) and a Post Graduate Diploma in Human Rights. He is assisted by a Secretary (trim-drung) and two other staff members. The territorial jurisdiction of the Tibetan Local Justice Commission for Northern region includes 28 Tibetan settlements and Tibetans living elsewhere within Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh.

b)    Tibetan Local Justice Commission for Southern Region

The Tibetan Local Justice Commission for Southern region was established on 1st May 2002 at the Tibetan Settlement in Bylakuppa, Karnataka. It has territorial jurisdiction over five Tibetan settlements and Tibetans living in six cluster sites in Karnataka, Pondicherry, Maharashtra, Goa and Tamil Nadu. The current Justice Commissioner is a registered advocate Ms. Namgyal Tsekyi who holds LL.M  (India) and LL.M (USA).  She is assisted by a Secretary (trim-drung) and two other staff members.

Besides adjudication of civil cases, since 2010, the Tibetan Local Justice Commissions have been performing the important duty of providing at least one Tibetan legal awareness educational programme to the Tibetan people residing in their territorial jurisdiction.

In order to mitigate the problem for the poor and needy Tibetan people residing in settlements located far off from their Tibetan Local Justice Commission, the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission issued a special guideline on 5th March 2010 to the respective Tibetan Local Justice Commission directing that  if they receive specific information with request from the Settlement Office, then the Tibetan Local Justice Commissioner and concerned staff must go to the settlement itself to settle the litigation following all the litigation process. To enable the Tibetan Local Justice Commissioner to function till the completion of the civil case, the respective Settlement Office must provide the necessary facilities as per the Kashag’s instruction of 11th March 2010. Such a legal redressing facility is to be provided only to the poor and needy Tibetan people of the settlement and other residents located far off from their Tibetan Local Justice Commission.

c)    Settlement Officer in charge of Tibetan Local Justice Commission (Chek-choek Sa-ney trim-yep khang)

In addition to the above two Tibetan Local Justice Commissions, there are 17  Chik-chok Sa-ney Trim-yep Khang (Settlement Officer also operating as the Tibetan Local Justice Commissioner) in India, Nepal and Switzerland.  Following are the list of  17  Chik-chok Sa-ney Trim-yep Khang:

S. No.  Name of Chik-chok Sa-ney Trim-yep Khang State/ Country
1 Ladakh Sonamling J&K,  India
2 Bomdila Tenzin Gang Arunachal Pradesh, India
3 Tezu Dhargyeling Arunachal Pradesh, India
4 Miao Choephelling Arunachal Pradesh, India
5 Orissa Phuntsokling Orissa,  India
6 Bandhara Norgyeling Maharashtra,  India
7 Mainpat Phendeling Chhattisgarh,  India
8 Shillong Meghalaya, India
9 Darjeeling West Bengal,  India
10 Kalimpong West Bengal,  India
11 Ravangla Kunphenling Sikkim,  India
12 Gangtok Sikkim,  India
13 Jawalakhel Samdupling Kathmandu,  Nepal
14 Paljorling Pokhara,  Nepal
15 Tashipalkhiel Pokhara,  Nepal
16 Tashiling Pokhara, Nepal
17 Bureau du Tibet  Geneva, Switzerland

The Chik-chok Sa-ney Trim-yep Khang or the Settlement Officer also operating as the Tibetan Local Justice Commissioner, too, occasionally provides the Tibetan legal awareness educational programme to the Tibetan people residing in their territorial jurisdiction.

Whos Who

Names of the former and present Chief Justice Commissioners and Justice Commissioners of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission

S.No

Name Designation Date of retirement
Justice Commissioner Chief Justice Commissioner
Appointment Oath Appointment Oath
1 Phunrab Lobsang Dhargyal Drache 24.02.1992 10.03.1992 19/09/2002
2 Dongag Tenzin Songag Tsang 20.01.1997 29.01.1997 …. 17/03/2002
3 Lobsang Dhargyal Shewo 20. 01.1997 29.01.1997 …. …. 17/02/1999
4 Sonam Sangpo Jadur 24.09.2001 26.09.2001 24.09.2002 01.10.2002 28/09/2004
5 Namgyal Tsering Dralnang 18.03.2002 20.03.2002 15.09.2004 14.10.2004 14/10/2009
6 Lobsang Khedup Drongre 24.09.2002 01.10.2002 …. 01/07/2005
7 Thupten Tashi Amney Tsang 15.09.2004 14.10.2004 …. …. 27/07/2009
8 Ngawang Phelgyal Genchen 15.09.2005 16.12.2005 23.09.2009 16.10.2009 14/10/2014
9 NgawangThupten Chuteng 14.09.2009 16.10.2009 03/10/2013
10 Tsering Dhondup Namelhakhang 15.03.2010 24.03.2010 Present
11 Ngawang Choedak Choetri Tengpa 21/09/2013 03/10/2013 Present
11 Kargyu Dhondup 13/09/2014 17/10/2014 Present

 

Contact

Mailing:

Secretary
Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission
Central Tibetan Administration
Dharamshala – 176215
H.P., India

Tel: +91-1892-225099, 224964

Fax: +91-1892-225099

E-mail: tsjc[at]tibet.net

Programs
Law, Code & Evidence

Laws and Rules of the Justice Commission

The Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission has, under the provision of the Article 67 of the Charter for the Tibetans in exile, drafted the Code of Judiciary, the Code of Civil Procedure and the Evidence Act; these were enacted into law on 28 March 1996, with the approval of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

The Code of Judiciary

This Code, consisting of 9 chapters and 84 sections with appendices, is the basic rule governing the Tibetan judicial system, its organization and jurisdiction. It explains the nature of the three levels of Tibetan Justice Commissions and their purpose, power, venue and jurisdiction; as well as about the basic requirement for instituting a case, the original suit and appeal, and the functions of the Justice Commissioners and their staffs.

The Code of Civil Procedure

This Code, consisting of 15 chapters and 89 sections with appendices, is the law governing the procedural rules of the Tibetan Justice Commissions. It provides a detailed guidelines on the procedures (who, how, at what time and at which place etc.) to be adopted by the parties in filing the case and making claims or objections before the Tibetan Justice Commissions in accordance with the Tibetan Code of Judiciary and other related laws or instruments.

Evidence Act

This Act, consisting of 14 chapters and 83 sections, is a principal law regulating the weight and sufficiency of evidences in the legal proceedings. It provides a detailed guideline on the different types of evidences, admissibility of evidences, veracity of witnesses, examination of witnesses and the standard of proof.As we gain more experience, we plan to make amendments to the Codes and Acts already existing, and introduce new Codes and Acts as and when necessary.

Power, Jurisdiction & Composition

Power:

Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission is the supreme or ultimate commission of justice for the Tibetan people in exile. In accordance with the Charter for the Tibetans in exile and the laws enacted by the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, it is empowered to make judicial codes, procedural rules as well as other regulations, and implement them after having taken approval from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission is also empowered to establish any subordinate Justice Commissions, or to dissolve any of them already in existence. It is further empowered to provide guidance to, and supervise, the works of the entire subordinate Justice Commissions.While in exile, we are bound by the laws of the respective host countries we live in. Hence barring criminal and title suits, as well as other matters opposed to by the law of the host country, the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission may take up the following cases:

  1. Disputes relating to the interpretation of the Charter for the Tibetans in exile, laws, ordinances, executive orders, rules and regulations.
  2. Disputes relating to the conduct of the officials serving in the various functionaries of the CTA and the redressal of grievances of the CTA officials
  3. Disputes relating to the land and property managed by the CTA in various Tibetan settlements.
  4. Cases involving the social welfare, or security, of the Tibetan exile community.
  5. Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission may either directly, or through its Local Justice Commissions, take up, and adjudicate on, any other matters that are not opposed to by the law of the host country.
  6. Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission has the power to issue directives for safeguarding the fundamental rights and duties of the exiled Tibetans whenever necessary
  7.     Whenever His Holiness the Dalai Lama consults the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission on matters relating to the interpretation of the Charter for the Tibetans in exile, on any issues of law or facts, and on the questions of legal ambiguities, it has the duty to submit legal opinions to the former.

Jurisdiction:

  •     Exclusive Jurisdiction: Cases falling under this jurisdiction are to be filed only before the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission.
  •     Concurrent Jurisdiction: Under special circumstances, the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission may also take up cases originally falling under the jurisdiction of the Local Justice Commissions.
  •     Appellate Jurisdiction:
    1.     An appeal may be filed before the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission on a final judgment passed by any Circuit Justice Commissions, or incase of the absence of Circuit Justice Commissions, by any Local Justice Commissions.
    2.     An appeal on a final judgment passed by any Circuit Justice Commissions, or an appeal to which an order of dismissal has been issued, may be filed before the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission.
  •     Special Leave Petition: Special leave petitions can be submitted to the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission, as provided in the laws, rules and regulations.
  •    Advisory Jurisdiction: The Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission offers legal opinions as and when referred to by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on matters relating to the interpretation of the Charter for the Tibetans in exile, on any issues of law or facts, and on the questions of legal ambiguities.

Composition:

The Chief Justice Commissioner, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile and the Kalon Tripa collectively constitute a three or five member Selection Committee, which will recommend a list of not less than two candidates for each of the posts of the Chief Justice Commissioner and the two other Justice Commissioners to be nominated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. If the nominated candidates are supported by two-thirds majority of the members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile, then His Holiness the Dalai Lama, by virtue of being the head of state, makes their formal appointments.

Qualification,Oath,Salary & Tenure

Qualification, Oath of Office, Salary and Tenure of the Justice Commissioners of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission

Qualification:

Following are the qualifications of the Justice Commissioners of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission:

  1. Must be a citizen of Tibet.
  2. Must have completed 50 years of age.
  3. Must have been a judge in any court for a continuous period of 5 years, or has been an experienced advocate (standing) for at least 10 years.

However for a period of 20 years since the coming into force of the Charter of the Tibetans in exile in 1991 (2118 Tibetan Royal Year), the above point A(3) is not mandatory for the appointment of the Justice Commissioners.

Oath of Office:

Those who are appointed as the Chief Justice Commissioner and the Justice Commissioners of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission have to, before assuming their responsibilities, take oath of office from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, according to the prescribed forms of law.

Salary and Other Benefits:

  •     The salary, daily allowance (perdiem), pension and other benefits of the Chief Justice Commissioner and the two other Justice Commissioners of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission are as per the law enacted by the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.
  •     There can be no reductions or alterations affecting the salary, daily allowance (perdiem), pension and other benefits of the Chief Justice Commissioner and the two other Justice Commissioners of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission during their tenure.

Tenure

:Unless a resolution for impeachment initiated by two-thirds majority of the total members of the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile is approved by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, or the concerned person tenders a resignation, the tenure of the Chief Justice Commissioner is 5 years, or until the completion of 65 years of age, or whichever is earlier; and the tenure of the two other Justice Commissioners is until the completion of 65 years of age.The Chief Justice Commissioner and the two other Justice Commissioners can not hold any office of profit after their resignation, retirement or impeachment.

Sherpang & Surpang

Panel of Sherpang:

Whenever necessary, the Chief Justice Commissioner may appoint, in consultation with the Kashag, a panel of Sherpang consisting of not more than three members to assist the Chief Justice Commissioner and the two other Justice Commissioners in the case proceedings. Out of the three Sherpangs, at least two must have earned a degree in law from any recognized law colleges/universities.The tenure of the Sherpang is three years, but there is no objection to their re-appointment.Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission has, so far, appointed only one Sherpang. After his resignation, no appointment has been made.

Panel of Surpang:

Whenever a major case deems it necessary, a panel of Surpang consisting of not more than nine members, who are familiar with the case, may be directly appointed by the Chief Justice Commissioner to ensure fair administration of justice. However, no such Surpangs have been appointed so far. The Chief Justice Commissioner has been appointing three law graduate staffs of the Tibetan Supreme Justice Commission as Surpangs.