Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck graced the launching ceremony of the justice sector strategic plan yesterday in Thimphu.

The plan is a high-level framework to guide coordinated, integrated, and flexible sector-level development in the justice sector.

It identifies the need for coordination amongst the justice sector institutions, lack of human resources, capacity, capability, and retention plans, needs for a framework for implementation of legal aid; weak data management leading to inadequate management and accountability as major challenges of the justice sector.

The attorney general, Shera Lhundup, said there is a need to improve communications and understanding among all the sectors to deliver justice.

He said time and resources could be saved with improved coordination by citing the example of how investigating agencies like police and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and judiciary compiles a report and maintains data every time a case is registered.

“This will be streamlined and OAG, police and judiciary could use one data if the strategic plan for the justice sector is materialised,” he said.

According to the attorney general, “Even if OAG officials are skilled and capable, it doesn’t serve the purpose of justice if investigating authorities like police and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) are not competent.”

Shera Lhundup said under the area, the justice sectors could strengthen in their respective institutions so that not only judiciary could be efficient in rendering fair judgment but the OAG is efficient in prosecuting and making the best presentation of the arguments. 

“Equally more important is a due process justice by the investigating authorities. There is an urgent need to enhance the skills of the investigating authorities in collecting evidence and statements without undue harassment.”

He said there was no justice sector strategic plan as an integral part of the five-year plans in the past. “But this time, the 12th Plan, for the first time, includes National Key Result Area 16 that specifically focuses on strengthening justice services and institutions.”

Shera Lhundup said a core team, including representatives from five key justice institutions in the country (Judiciary or the Royal Court of Justice, ACC, police, Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI) and OAG) in collaboration with the UNDP and the Austrian Development Cooperation worked on the strategic plan.

He said the judiciary, OAG and investigating agencies are invariably interconnected in the functionings although the mandates are independent. “This efficiency improvement does not encroach into the powers, responsibilities and functions of other institutions. We can do that efficiently without offending those lines of duties.”

According to a press release from the OAG, the plan lays out five goals for the justice sector to have effective leadership governance and collaboration, competent, motivated, responsive, efficient and accountable justice service providers, accessible and inclusive justice services and adequate infrastructure.

“The justice service providers also for the first time have a joint responsibility for achieving and demonstrating change across the justice sector,” it stated.

It also stated that following the adoption of the strategic plan, implementation work will begin with the identified national steering committee and justice sector working committee.

Chief Justice Tshering Wangchuk said the launch of the justice sector strategic plan, prepared with the involvement of all the key stakeholders is a significant milestone.

He said the plan clearly sets out the strategic framework for the realization of reforms and development initiatives in the system will provide direction to the sector to play its rightful role in the process of nation-building.

“The essence of the strategic document is the improvement of the quality of justice system services, with a focus on meeting the needs of the people, with quality, speed and effectiveness,” he said.

The Chief Justice said that the strategic plan will enhance institutional capacity, encourage close coordination amongst justice sector institutions, and ensure an integrated system to complement and supplement a wide range of current efforts already in place or underway to provide a coordinated and continuum of meaningful and quality services – the right of the people.

He also said the introduction of a National Key Result Area on Justice Services and Institutions as one of the 16 areas in the 12th Plan is a testimony of the importance placed by the government on strengthening the justice system. “It ensures a greater emphasis on reinforcing synergy, efficiency, and responsiveness of justice institutions as a sector.”

Tashi Dema