Book on the Constitution making process launched

Book launch: The president of the Bhutan National Legal Institute, Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, launched the book “The Constitution of Bhutan: Principles and Philosophies”, coinciding with His Majesty the King’s 35th birth anniversary at the Supreme Court complex today.

Written by the former chairman of the Constitution drafting committee and former chief justice Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, the 513-page book explaining all the 35 articles of the Constitution is an acknowledgment of the contributions of the fourth Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck and His Majesty the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

The book chronicles the history of Bhutan, from beyond 1907, when the first hereditary monarch was enthroned. Author lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, who was closely associated with the making of the Constitution under the guidance of Their Majesties, also explains the intent and concept at the root of each provision of the Constitution.

The book underscores the reality that the Constitution is indeed the supreme law of the nation and throws light on the structure of polity. The book covers the active involvement of Their Majesties and the people in the Constitution making process during the public consultations conducted in all the 20 dzongkhags between the late 2005 and early 2006.

A press release stated the book fully enshrines the original will of the people in determining sovereignty and security of Bhutan. “It is the product of careful consideration to preserve and promote the ideals of sovereignty, nationhood, peace, security, unity, stability and liberty. It draws strength from Bhutan’s cherished historical past and consideration for the present and the future wellbeing of the people and the nation,” it is also stated.

Judicial officials said the adoption of the Constitution and the Constitution making process itself was historical and unique to Bhutan. “The world witnessed in awe the relinquishment of absolute authority by Their Majesties the Druk Gyalpos exactly after 100 years of benevolent monarchy in Bhutan,” the press release said. “This book is addressed to the future, so that the Constitution will be eternally relevant, responsive to any changing situations and hopefully be useful in remedying constitutional problems if any.”

A citizen, the press release stated, has the constitutional right to seek remedy and compliance for the violation of the responsibilities enshrined in the Constitution. Public knowledge is an important remedy and a self-restraint. “Therefore, we hope that this book will aid in understanding the philosophical basis and principles of every provision in the Constitution,” the press release stated.

Chief justice lyopo Tshering Wangchuk, during the release of the book, expressed gratitude to the former chief justice for taking on the responsibility to write about the principles and philosophies enshrined in the Constitution of Bhutan. “I am certain that the book will be an immense source of information to both current and future lawyers and constitutional scholars,” thrimchi lyonpo Tshering Wangchuk said.

Former chief justice Sonam Tobgye said the book is a collaborative and cooperative venture of those whose names are mentioned in the book.

Published by the judiciary with financial support from the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the book is an embodiment of Bhutanese history, culture, traditions and founding of a democratic constitutional monarchy with ownership belonging solely to the Bhutanese, according to lyonpo Tshering Wangchuk.

By Rinzin Wangchuk

Timeline

November 30, 2001: Following a royal decree by the fourth Druk Gyalpo in September drafting of Constitution begins
December 9, 2002: First draft of the Constitution submitted to His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo
March 22, 2004: His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo presents draft Constitution to Cabinet
March 26, 2005: Draft Constitution distributed to the people of Bhutan
October 26, 2005: His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo begins public consultations on draft Constitution
May 24, 2006: Public consultations on draft Constitution ends
May 9, 2008: First version of draft Constitution discussed in the first session of Parliament
July 18, 2008: Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan signed and adopted

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