There is a need to define legal qualification for legal representatives, say members

NC: The National Council yesterday resolved to revisit some of the clauses of the Jabmi  (amendment)Bill that some members felt needed further discussion.

One of the clauses the members could not agree on was the qualification of a jabmi or legal representative. The Jabmi Act 2003 prescribes that a jabmi should have “legal qualification” recognized by the Jabmi Tshogdey.

The bill passed by the assembly states, “Notwithstanding any provisions under this Act, Jabmi Tshogdey shall regulate the practice of law by a lawyer who does not possess Certificate of Jabmi and other practitioners who do not possess a law degree.”

Punakha’s Council member, Rinzin Dorji said the clause might bar those without formal qualification in law from providing legal services.

He said people in his constituency had welcomed the discussion on the bill and added that it should allow people without legal qualification to provide legal services. “I think the law will benefit more if people without a legal qualification are also allowed to practice,” he said.

The National Assembly passed the Jabmi (amendment) Bill 2014 in the last session.

Council member from Paro, Kaka Tshering, said people with some training are providing legal services besides the professional lawyers. He also said the law might create problems because those with some knowledge on law but do not have legal qualification would be bared from practicing.

The qualification was prescribed to set professional standards for the legal profession. However, another member said the legal qualification itself should be specified.

Speaking to Kuensel, legislative committee chairperson Sangay Khandu said the clauses would be revisited before adoption. However, he said that some of the concerns raised by the members were related to the dispute settlement Act of 2012, which empowers “amicable” solution of disputes through mediation.

Sangay Khandu said a jabmi is a professional advocate who represents clients in front of a court, whereas the dispute settlement Act allows people to settle disputes amicably. “There should not be ambiguity between the jabmi and those involved in amicably solving disputes,” he said.

The house also deliberated on free legal aid for “indigent people” or those who cannot effort to hire a lawyer. However, members said “indigent people” should be defined properly to avoid problems that may arise in implementation.

The committee chairperson said most provisions of the bill already existed in the Jabmi Act 2003, but they were not implemented. For instance, Sangay Khandu said the government keeps aside some money with the Office of Attorney General for providing free legal aid to indigent people but that has not be utilised.

He said people did not know how to avail the service, as there was no proper procedure to apply for the service. The chairperson said the bill was brought after consultation with various stakeholders.

A jabmi and a client shall voluntarily execute legal agreement as to a reasonable fee despite the duration taken for the case. The payment of the reasonable fee for a jabmi shall be in accordance with the legal agreement executed between a jabmi and his or her client.

The function of the bar council is to serve as a regulatory body of lawyers to assist courts in expediting cases and to ensure just, fair and prompt dispensation of justice and support law reforms. The Council will also conduct jabmi selection examinations.

With the amendment of the law, all existing problems among the Jabmis, between Jabmis and clients and inconvenience encountered by the courts are expected to be regulated.

MB Subba