Electorates will head to the Polling Stations tomorrow to vote for who would constitute the next crop of National Council. The first group of Councilors applaud their position by stating that they could pass as much as 39 Bills that ultimately became Acts. However, successful implementation of these Acts is subject to assessment. Tobacco Control Act needs special mention. It had to be amended during the very Parliament that passed the previous Act. Although, its goals and objective was noble and good for the society but its applicability seems neglected when deliberated in the Parliament. National Assembly also should be accountable for this. It testifies that people to whom laws are targeted are not being consulted and discussed with.

The confusion and differences on the interpretation of the Constitution regarding the National Council is far from being resolved. Some of the former Councilors had to resign to re contest for tomorrow’s election upon the circular issued by the Election Commission of Bhutan. On the other hand, National Council believed that they can re contest while staying in Office. Further, the Supreme Court stated that incumbents can contest the election without resigning. However, it was considered as an advisory opinion by the ECB, and therefore not binding. What could have been the status of ECB if the matter reached the Supreme Court? It would have impaired the status of the ECB as a Constitutional Body when it has to reverse its order. The problem does not end here.

With the order from ECB vis-a-vis limited time at their disposal to appeal, 16 Councilors resigned. 15 Councilors chose to re contest while one joined a Political Party. With their resignations, there is only 9 members in the National Council including 5 eminent members appointed by His Majesty the King. Constitution mandates National Council as a continuous House entrusting the responsibility as the House of Review. Section 6 of Article 11 of the Constitution and Section 64 of Article 5 of the National Council Act requires the National Council to assemble at least twice a year. Section 65 of the NC Act provides, “Whenever necessary, the Chairperson of the National Council shall convene an extraordinary sitting of the National Council on the command of the Druk Gyalpo”.

Should there be such extraordinary session, the quorum of two-third majority won’t be met with only 9 members staying until the end of their tenure on 28th April. Till date, there hasn’t been any issue of national importance that required extra ordinary session. With more than a week to go for next group of Councilors to take the office, chances cannot be ruled out where extraordinary session might have to be called for. Further, if this goes as an established precedent, every after five years, National Council will be left with less than required members to call for session should there be any issue to be reviewed and deliberated. Are we to see amendment of the provisions of some Acts and Constitution in next five years or keep it until situation compels to do so?

This milieu could be hypothetical for some but it would be ‘too little, too late’ to act at the very last moment. Concerted effort is required to resolve the unresolved issue in order to avoid limbo and crisis during the time of crisis.

Source:  The article is reproduction of author’s Facebook post in entirety dated 22 April 2013.

Dechen Rabgyal

I am from Drepung, Mongar, Bhutan.

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