MB Subba

The National Assembly’s refusal to deliberate the Impeachment Procedure Bill 2019 and the Minister and Equivalent Post Holders’ Entitlement Bill 2019 has raised questions on the fate of the two Bills.

There are no clear legal provisions on how to go about a Bill that is passed by one House but rejected by the other without deliberation. The Bills were passed in the summer session of the National Council (NC) last year.

The Right to Information Bill, which was passed by the National Assembly in February 2014, became a dead Bill.

Some are of the view that the Bills are deemed to have been passed by the lower House. However, the two Bills will be deemed passed only if the National Assembly does not return it to the National Council, according to the Constitution.

A Bill, under the Constitution, is returned to the House in which the Bill originated with amendments or objections for re-deliberation. Such Bills are presented in a joint sitting.

A member of the National Assembly said that the intention of the government was to make it a dead Bill.

However, a Bill becomes dead only if it fails to obtain the endorsement of not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of both the Houses present and voting in a joint sitting, according to the Legislative Rules of Procedure (LRoP) 2017.

Citing Article 13(8) of the Constitution, Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said the Assembly had to return the Bills with objections to the NC.

  “If the NC accepts the objections, it can re-send to the Assembly as and when it wishes. If not, the NC can submit it to His Majesty for Royal Assent as extreme measure,” he said.

But the problem, he added, was that such objections have to be on the content of the Bill.

The National Assembly about a week ago returned the Bills to the NC with justifications on why it did not deliberate them. The NC is expected to hold a plenary on the issue today.

According to the National Assembly’s secretary general, Sangay Duba, the House has communicated to the NC that there were already many Acts in the country and that the two Bills were not very important at the moment. He was of the opinion that the Bills were not dead and that it was up to the NC to see the course of action on them.

However, a political observer said it was unacceptable for the National Assembly to return a Bill to NC without deliberating it. He said justifications of the National Assembly on returning the Bill should be on changes in the content of the Bill, not on why the House did not deliberate it.

“The issue created tension between two Houses and their confidence level has been lowered. We lost five years to have those Bills,” he said.

Deputy Chairperson and spokesperson of NC, Jigme Wangchuk, said that the House will review the justifications of the National Assembly today. “We can give our opinion only after that,” he said.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering earlier told in the National Assembly that there was no need to discuss the Bill. He justified that not all provisions of the Constitution was implemented.

Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said that although the Bills were not very important, it was important for the Parliament to follow the rules of procedure. He said that there were no provisions where a House can reject a Bill passed by another without any deliberation.

The two Bills also does not qualify as “withdrawn” either under Chapter 4 of the LRoP.

According to the LRoP, a Bill passed by one House may be withdrawn by the other House on the grounds of, but not limited to, the legislative proposal covered in the Bill being dropped or a more comprehensive Bill on the same subject being proposed at a later date.

However, the LRoP adds that where a Bill has been passed by the National Council and is pending before the National Assembly, the Assembly may recommend to the National Council that leave be granted to withdraw the Bill.

“If leave is not granted by the other House for withdrawal of the Bill, the Bill shall then follow the procedures outlined for Disputed Bills,” the LRoP states.

The Minister and Equivalent Post Holders’ Entitlement Bill proposes the establishment of a national committee on the entitlements of minister and minister equivalent post holders.

The NC drafted the impeachment Bill in line with Article 32 of the Constitution, which states that the procedure for impeachment, incorporating the principles of natural justice, shall be as laid down by law made by Parliament.