The two houses have a dispute over 24 provisions of the Civil Society Organisations (Amendment) Bill 2021, and yesterday, the National Council (NC) decided to submit the Bill to His Majesty The King to seek approval for joint sitting.
To deliberate the Bill in a joint sitting, Parliament needs His Majesty’s command.
The NC Legislative Committee Chairperson Phuntsho Rapten said the NC sent the Bill amending 34 provisions to the National Assembly (NA) in the last session of the parliament. “Out of the 34 provisions, the NA accepted 10 and partially amended 10 without change in the actual meaning.”
He said the NA amended 63 provisions of the Bill. “The committee accepted 39 provisions, decided to keep 12 provisions as amended by the NC, and retain 12 per the existing Act, bringing the total disputed provisions to 24.”
Eminent member Phuntsho Rapten said the main disputes are on only about three provisions, which include the board members of the Civil Society Organisation Authority (CSOA) inserting a new provision on small scale CSO and on persons disqualified from being CSO board members. “The NC amended the board chair position to be held by the home secretary, but the NA changed it to the home minister. We proposed two members from the CSO but the NA included three.”
Meanwhile, the NC also made recommendations to the government and relevant agencies on codification, consolidation, repeal and publication of laws, on mental health and suicide, on state-owned enterprises, and the Anti-Corruption report.
Codification, Consolidation, Repeal and Publication of Laws
- The NC recommended that the government:
- Designate an appropriate agency responsible for codification of laws;
- Identify a parent agency for each law to provide ownership and effective implementation, including consolidation, harmonization, and repeal of obsolete laws;
- Establish an official gazette either by an act or executive order as the official single window source of law to be treated as the authoritative version; and
- Direct agencies to submit delegated legislation together with the Bill to Parliament draft to ensure that they are within the provisions of the Bill.
Mental Health Issues and Suicide
It also recommended that government:
- Continue to render steadfast support for the Royal Initiative in improving policies, allocating resources, and strengthening intersectoral partnerships;
- Conduct research and improving data collection to create a more robust and responsive system on mental health and suicide;
- Prioritize training of school counsellors in specialised fields, recruit and allocate a minimum of one counsellor at all levels of schools and provide additional counsellors in schools with greater populations, and improve the counselling room facilities in schools across the country to create a more conducive environment to de-stigmatise and encourage open discussions about feelings and problems;
- Encourage regular spiritual programmes in educational institutes, establish help centres and publicise uniform helplines for people at both the dzongkhag and national level, as well as conduct timely awareness programs, so persons suffering from any mental disorders or suicidal thoughts can avail immediate assistance; prioritise care for those who have attempted suicide by ensuring they avail follow up counselling sessions for themselves and for their families;
- Implement the Narcotic Drugs Psychotropic Substances and Substance Abuse Act 2015 (Sections 34 and 36) on treatment and rehabilitation by establishing rehabilitation centres in the regions for substance and alcohol users to access treatment and counselling facilities;
- Facilitate and ensure meaningful engagement of youth during times of leisure;
- Allow free access for children and youth in the existing government-owned sports facilities such as parks, school grounds, and institutional facilities; and
- Establish youth parks and recreational facilities targeted at youths in urban and rural areas.
- Inject the required capital to commercially oriented SOEs for expediting the divestment and privatise those manufacturing and services that are in direct conflict with the private sector by incorporating the exit plan in the Article of Incorporation;
- Make farm shops viable by incorporating farm input, a product marketing channel system, and upscale it to remote areas;
- Establish reliable POL stations at the appropriate locations to stimulate rural development at gewog level;
- Explore and formalize appropriate mechanism to resolve NPL; and
- Strengthen the implementation of legislations by develop and implement the Charter or Bylaws for Bhutan Broadcasting Service Corporation Limited as per the Information, Communication and Media Act of Bhutan 2018 for smooth operation, harmonize the Corporate Governance Guidelines 2019 of Ministry of Finance and Corporate Governance Rules and Regulations 2020 of Royal Monetary Authority to avoid confusion, and maintain Corporate Social Responsibility Fund as per the Companies Act of Bhutan 2016 to deliver required social services.
ACC Annual Report 2020-2021
- Consider creating awareness on the provisions of the Act and guidelines on the protection of witnesses or informers and consequences of false complaint, and conduct a review on the adequacy of the provisions of the Act and Guidelines to understand if there is a need to enact a separate Witness Protection Act;
- Assess the efficacy of the integrity clubs in schools either on its own or outsource its impact assessment to a relevant agency to avoid biases; and
- Explore a systematic process that would help institutionalise any ACC related trainings and programmes within the LG institutions for their sustainability and explore conducting such programs at the beginning of the LG tenure.