At the post-session press conference yesterday, the National Council (NC) members said the house would soon initiate drafting of an impeachment Bill.

The council’s deputy chairperson of the good governance committee, Tharchen, said the country does not have an impeachment Act if Parliament has to impeach a constitutional post holder. He said the House of Review has recognised the urgency of enacting the law.

Enactment of an impeachment Act, he said, would not only to hold constitutional post holders accountable, but also insulate constitutional post holders from potential arbitrary impeachment attempts by parliamentarians.

Article 32(5) of the Constitution states that the procedure for impeachment, incorporating the principles of natural justice, shall be as laid down by law made by Parliament. Constitutional post holders can be removed only by way of impeachment on the ground of “incapacity, incompetency or serious misconduct”.

The issue came to light during the deliberation of the Anti-Corruption annual report 2016.

During the upcoming session, the council will also initiate amendment of the Mines and Mineral Act of 1995 if the government does not do it. The council is of the view that the Act does not reflect the vision and intent of the Constitution.

On similar lines, the council rejected the recently launched Mineral Development Policy 2017, stating that the policy is not in line with the principles of the Constitution. It stated that the policy is contrary to the vision of building a just and harmonious society.

The council’s spokesperson and deputy chairperson, Tshering Dorji, said the economic affairs minister has said that the government will amend the Act.

“We will initiate amendment of the Act in the upcoming session if the government does not do it,” he said.

Tshering Dorji said that the upcoming session would also deliberate how the country could provide pro bono legal aid to the poor.

“We have noticed that annual budgets for pro bono legal services have been decreasing every year,” he said, adding that a policy on pro bono legal aid was required.

During the 19th session, the house deliberated four money bills, passed two international agreements and the customs Bill 2017. The money Bills included the annual budget 2017-18, the supplementary appropriation Bill 1016-17, the third pay commission report and the Fiscal Incentives Bill 2017.

The house, however, did not endorse the Fiscal Incentives Bill, reasoning that the fiscal incentives lacked proper objectives. It was the first incident of council rejecting a money Bill in totality.

One of the two agreements passed was the Trade, Commerce and Transit Agreement between Bhutan and India. Gasa’s Council member Sangay Khandu said the agreement was the most important international treaties passed by House this session.

“The treaty between the two friendly countries is very important,” he said.

The agreement was signed on November 12 in Thimphu last year. The bilateral trade agreement expired in July last year, but the validity was extended with effect from July 29, 2016, for a period of one year or till the new agreement came into force.

The house also passed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Member from Chhukha, Pema Tenzin, said that the Paris agreement was significant for Bhutan as the country is a pioneer in climate change initiatives.

“People from around the world appreciate us for our clean environment,” he said.

Both the agreements were endorsed by both houses of Parliament and will be submitted for Royal Assent.

The legislative committee’s deputy chairperson and eminent member, Karma Tshering, said that the Royal Audit Authority Bill 2017 was another important Bill passed during the session.

He said that the council felt that the Royal Audit Authority needed a separate office like other constitutional offices, and have incorporated the same in the Bill.

The Bill will go to the National Assembly for deliberations. It seeks to repeal the Audit Act of Bhutan 2006.

The Bill, according to the council, will address issues in greater detail that the existing Audit Act does not cover.

During the upcoming session, the council will deliberate the Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Bill of Bhutan 2017 and the Bhutan Information Communications and Media Bill 2016.

Both were endorsed by the National Assembly during the summer session.

MB Subba