Founder of Druk Gaki Tshogpa, Cheku Dukpa, appealed to the Supreme Court yesterday against the High Court’s judgment that upheld the decision of the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) to disqualify his party.

The High Court’s judgment on July 13, cited two reasons for the applicant political party’s ineligibility to secure registration with the ECB.

One, the applicant party did not submit the names of its members from two constituencies. Two, it did not submit the names of its members in the Political Party Form No 2 as required under the electoral laws.

The Political Party Form No 2 contains the details of the applicant party’s members, membership fees and voluntary contributions. The High Court stated that the party had submitted the names of its members in a separate sheet.

However, citing his grounds of appeal, Cheku Dukpa said that he did submit the Political Party Form No 2 upon the ECB’s advice and that the court should have verified that. He also said that the court’s contradictory statements had made the judgment confusing.

“On one hand, the High Court has said that we need not have members from each of the 47 constituencies. On the other hand, it states that we could not secure registration because of lack of members from two constituencies,” he said.

The judgment states that an applicant political party fulfils the requirement of a broad-based membership if it submits the name of at least one member from every dzongkhag and that a tentative list of all 47 candidates was not required for the purpose of registration. Accordingly, the judgment ruled that the party is eligible for registration if the rest of the requirements are met.

“That fact that we had members from all 20 dzongkhags is mentioned clearly in the ECB’s notification on our disqualification. Going by the court’s statement, we cannot be disqualified for registration for not having members in two constituencies,” he said.

The judgment states that ECB cannot ask for the list of all the candidates for the purpose of registration.

The ECB had cited lack of potential candidates for half of the 47 constituencies as one of the reasons for disqualification.

According to ECB, of the 308 registered members, ECB found irregularities in 29 cases with names not in the electoral roll, names of religious personalities, mismatch of names and constituency mistake.

The High Court ruled that the Constitution and the Election Act has provisions on the age limit, between 25 and 65 years, and that the citizens have the constitutional right to choose.

The court also ruled that the ECB had followed due process and has given adequate opportunity to the applicant party to fulfill the requirements.

The party applied for registration to ECB on February 9 and the commission decided on March 15 to deny registration for the party.

MB Subba