Out of 52 requested since 2017

Thinley Namgay

Since the inception of the Bar Council of Bhutan (BCB) in 2017, lawyers under the council have provided 16 pro bono services out of  the 52 legal aid services requested by the Legal Aid Centre (LAC).

Pro bono legal aid services refer to uncompensated legal services performed for indigent citizens or the public good. The LAC requests BCB for legal aid, which can be either fee-based or pro bono.

Under the pro bono legal aid guidelines of the BCB, there is a mandatory requirement for all practicing lawyers under the council to render one pro bono service a year.

BCB’s Registrar, Chimi Dorji, said the pro bono guidelines were developed in consultation with lawyers, and failure to fulfill the mandate will affect the yearly certificate renewal. BCB maintains a roster and appoints a lawyer who will carry pro bono service.

Chimi Dorji said the council tries to locate a lawyer close to the particular court for pro bono service, but if there is no lawyer near that court, someone has to go based on the roster regardless of distance.  The free service is also part of social responsibility.

Appointed lawyer has to perform the duty diligently as it will be reviewed by the discipline committee in case of any complaints. However, pro bono service will  be canceled if the litigant refuses to cooperate with the designated lawyer.

Lawyers said that while the objective of pro bono service is good, it is sometimes challenging to travel to other dzongkhags bearing one’s own expenditure. Some cases take months.

However, lawyers said they feel glad to see the impact of their work in the life of those in need. “We will try our best,” one lawyer said.

There are 312 lawyers in the country comprising 183 males and 129 females. There are also 82 paralegals, 74 males, and eight females. However, paralegals are not allowed to provide pro bono services due to their qualifications.