Assembly: The National Assembly yesterday resolved that the president of the jabmi tshogdey (bar council) would be elected from its members.

The post of the president was one of the contentious issues in the Jabmi Bill 2014, with some members arguing that the post should be left open for jabmis (lawyers) from outside the council.

“If the president is elected from outside the bar council, the purpose of having the bar council is lost,” Khar-Yurung MP Zanglay Dukpa said.

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.

According to the bill, the council will comprise seven members, including the attorney general and two former Supreme Court or High Court drangpons.

The house also resolved that there would be only two members from the jabmi thuentshog (bar association) in the bar council, one of who will be a private practitioner.  The legislative committee had recommended for only one former drangpon as a member to the council.

According to the bill, the president shall be the head the office of the jabmi tshodey for a term of three years and will be eligible for reappointment.  The president shall be of high integrity and hold a minimum qualification of a law degree.

The bill also allows a former drangpon to practice as jabmi before the higher court, from where he or she presided.

A new subsection, which states that notwithstanding any provisions under the Act, the bar association may regulate the practices of law by jabmis, who do not posses law degree, has been introduced.  However, some members raised objections against the subsection, saying that it would defeat the purpose of having the law.

MP Zanglay Dukpa argued that since it was a professional association, it was necessary to prescribe certain qualifications and criteria for lawyers. “They need to provide professional service.”

However, other members said that allowing those without a degree in law to be a jabmi would enable people from humble background to avail legal services.  Lamgo-Wangchag MP Khandu Wangchuk said, “The number of professional jabmis in the country is small and they’ll charge high fees for their service.”

However, home minister Damcho Dorji said that, although a qualification is required to be a member of the association, those without the qualification could provide service without registering with the association. “Jabmis should be required to register with the association only if the jabmi wants to open a legal firm,” lyonpo said.

The assembly’s legislative committee chairman, Lekey Dorji, said the amendment bill allows retired drangpons to work as jabmis.

An elected chairperson, who shall also be the vice president of the jabmi tshogdey, and serve for a term of three years, will head the bar association.

The bar association will make rules for discharging its functions under the Act.  Such rules should prescribe qualifications for jabmis to become members to the jabmi tshogdey or the jabmi thuentshog and disqualification from such membership.

The house will continue deliberations today, as it couldn’t meet the quorum after the lunch break.

By MB Subba