Rinzin Wangchuk

Bhutan National Legal Institute (BNLI) is conducting training for bench clerks in Paro to develop their capacities and enhance their skills to interpret laws.

The two-day training, which started yesterday, will highlight the rules and theories; and familiarize the trainees with the best practices of understanding, analysis and synthesis of the laws; and provide some keys to the legislative mind.

BNLI director-general, Lobzang Rinzin Yargay, said that the skills acquired by the bench clerks through the training would help the judges in drafting the judgment and the correct application of the laws to the cases.

He said the public and the consumers of justice would benefit from the informed, transparent, fair and intelligent interpretation and application of the laws by the judicial personnel.

The duty of the bench clerks are often misunderstood as a menial job to in usher litigants and simply draft judgments for the judges. But the bench clerks do much more than the mechanical execution of the orders of the judges, as they actively assist the judges in the judicial proceedings including analysis of the cases and drafting of the judgments.

Bench clerks are the pillars of justice and play a crucial role in the dispensation of justice and the delivery of judicial services.

However, despite their long experience, they lack formal training on the principles, theories, philosophies and techniques of interpretation of laws.

According to a press release from BNLI, the interpretation skills help in understanding the laws; and determining the actual meaning and intention of the legislature through certain principles, maxims rules and best practices such as the Golden Rule or the Liberal Rule, the Literal or the Grammatical Rule, the Mischief Rule, the Harmonious construction rule. In other words, the interpretation techniques are keys to open the legislative intent behind drafting or passing a particular statute of law. Then there are aids, clues and signs to help gauge the legislative intent of the laws – both within the Act and outside it.

It stated that as the judicial wing of the government, the primary duty or the power of the judiciary is to interpret or apply the laws made by the Parliament, on the facts and circumstances of the cases brought before it. “As far as possible, we are required to apply the laws as it is made by the Parliament, giving simply the effect to the intent, the will and the order of the legislature which has the mandate to make, amend or repeal the laws.”

The Statutory Acts or the laws, in general, are the conduits through which the legislative intent is channelled. The courts, therefore, are required to pronounce what the law says, without altering or diluting it. On the other hand, some laws require liberal interpretation befitting the social context (spirit) of the countries.

Law is a complex subject, and the interpretation of law is an intellectually challenging job. “Hence the need of the judges, the learned professionals to decode the laws often couched in abstract technical language, with which the common people are not familiar,” the press release stated. “But it is not only the judges who are tasked with the interpretation of the laws. He or she is assisted by a team of bench clerks in the interpretation of laws.”

BNLI is also planning to conduct similar training to the other bench clerks. There are about 258 bench clerks in 15 drungkhag courts, 20 dzongkhag courts, High Court and Supreme Court today.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP Bhutan) is funding the training. The president of BNLI, Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, graced the opening ceremony yesterday.