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Re-deliberation on the Ministers and Minister Equivalent Post Holders’ Entitlement Bill of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2019.

Posted on :04 March 2020

The House adopted the proposal of the Legislative Committee on the Ministers and Minister Equivalent Post Holders’ Entitlement Bill of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2019 to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality or legality of the decision of the house of Parliament not discussing a Bill that has originated in another house.

The Bill originated as the Private Members Bill from the National Council (NC) and was forwarded to the National Assembly in the 23rd session.  The NA in its current session tabled the Bill and decided not to discuss the Bill and forwarded back to NC with three reasons.

 

Highlighting the intent and the background of legislating the Bill, Hon’ble Choining Dorji, Chair to the Legislative Committee explained that despite the NC initiative of discussions with the NA and suggested ways forward, the National Assembly’s decided not to discuss the Bill and neither requested the NC to withdraw the Bill. He also explained that the NA decision of not discussing the Bill passed by the National Council is unprecedented. The only option of last resort taken thus far has been for one House to ask the other House to withdraw the Bills following the procedures outlined in Legislative Rules of Procedure 2017 (LROP). As a result, this raises important questions of constitutionality and legislative procedure.

He further expressed that there are constitutionally only two options for the other Houses after one House has passed a Bill. It can either pass the Bill, in which case it submits to His Majesty for Royal assent or not pass it in which case it returns the bill to the House which it originated with amendments and objections. The option of not discussing the Bill does not arise. To do so is to forsake one’s Constitutional duty as a legislature.

Proposing the way forward, the Chair stated that NC can let these questions be unanswered and submit the Bill for Royal Assent as deemed passed. However, he said the risks are too much as it not only sets bad precedent but also the certainty of these situations and questions arising too often in future. The people of Bhutan and the credibility of our democracy will eventually come to suffer.  

Therefore, the Committee proposed to seek the opinion of the Supreme Court on the constitutionality or legality of the decision of a house of Parliament not to discuss a Bill that has originated in another house, and also its guidance on whether the provisions of the NA Act, NC Act and their Rules of Procedures merit amendment to be harmonized with the Constitution.

The members also shared the same concerns as the Committee and adopted the proposal with all the 22 members present voting “YES”.

Tomorrow, the House will conduct its  closing ceremony

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