“Even prior to my departure from Tibet in March 1959, I had come to the conclusion that in the changing circumstances of the modern world, the system of governance in Tibet must be modified and amended so as to allow the elected representatives of the people to play a more effective role in guiding and shaping the social and economic policies of the State. I also firmly believed that this could only be done through democratic institutions based on social and economic justice.”
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Foreword to the Constitution for Tibet, drafted in 1963
The Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile is the highest legislative body of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). It is one of the three pillars of Tibetan democratic governance – the Judiciary, Legislature and the Kashag (Executive).
The democratisation of the Tibetan polity has long been an aspiration of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He had, in fact, initiated the reforms in Tibet itself but this was interrupted due to China’s invasion in 1949/50. Prior to the Chinese invasion, Tibetans experienced little or no democratic governance since important decisions were taken by the Tsogdu (National Assembly), a composition of Kalons (Cabinet members), abbots of the three great monasteries and societal representatives. No direct elections were held. Following His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s escape into India in 1959, he formally outlined an introduction of democratic polity in Bodhgaya, India in February 1960. He advised the exile Tibetans to set up an elected body comprising three exile representatives from the three traditional Tibetan provinces and one each from the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Elections were duly held and 13 representatives termed ‘Deputies’ were elected and designated as the ‘Commission of Tibetan People’s Deputies’ (CTPD). They took their oath on 2 September 1960. This historic date was later celebrated as ‘Tibetan Democracy Day’.