Opposition states it won’t take up the case

To determine the legality of fiscal incentives granted by the government, Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) has urged the Opposition Party in writing, to pursue the case with the High Court.

The request follows the High Court’s decision of November 9 where, stating that it didn’t have a legal standing to sue, dismissed the party’s submission for a writ on the constitutionality of the government granting fiscal incentives without the parliament’s endorsement.  DNT on August 18 moved Court against the government for alleged violation of the Constitution.

In the November 21 letter to the leader of the Opposition, DNT stated that the OL would be aware that the government clearly ‘violated’ the Constitution when it altered tax to give tax holidays to certain sectors and that both the Opposition and National Council had considered all the arguments.

“We also raised similar concerns through the media hoping that the government would acknowledge its mistakes and take corrective measures,” the letter stated. “However, the government challenged us to take them to Court, which we did.”

The party had decided not to appeal on the case’s dismissal but to instead write to the Opposition to take up the case.

“The matter remains unresolved, which is not good for our democracy and we cannot remain indifferent to the Constitution being violated,” the letter from party president, Tandi Dorji, stated, adding that the Court has indicated in its ruling that the case is legitimate and that the government has erred.

However, the letter stated that the Court has made it clear that it is the duty of the Opposition and not parties outside the Parliament that must take responsibility in correcting the government.

“We, therefore, urge the Opposition to fulfill the responsibility bestowed by the Court and resume the case with the High Court,” the letter states. “We have done our part and we hope that you will do what is needed to bring this issue to a logical conclusion.”

However, Opposition Leader Pema Gyamtsho (PhD) said they would not take up the case because the opposition taking the government of the day to court is tantamount to handing over the power of decision-making through democratic procedures in parliament to the judiciary.

“Other check and balance constitutional bodies and affected parties should play their roles in determining the outcome and righting the wrongs as was the case with Thromdes,” he said. “Moreover DNT didn’t exhaust due process of law by not appealing to the Supreme Court and I’m sure they had access to legal counsel on their status as a litigant,”

DPT’s MP Ugyen Wangdi, who is also the party’s vice-president of parliamentary affairs, said that the party’s standing principle was not to take government to court time and again but to stand for constructive and not destructive argument.

He said DNT could have appealed to the Supreme Court and the Court could have considered the case.

“We’ll not initiate any case against the government on FI as asked by the DNT because the court has not said if FI is legal or illegal,” he said. “Although we had argued earlier on the Constitution breach, this has now been endorsed as money bill and hence legalised.”

DNT’s general secretary, Tenzin Lekphel, said as of now there is no legal room for DNT to follow up and DNT has absolutely no authority over the Opposition on any issue.

“But we’re confident that the opposition leader and the party would rise to the call of the nation to protect the sanctity of our scared Constitution,” he said. “We’ll also be closely watching on this issue of huge national importance and we’ll be responsible to follow up the case, if corrective measures are not taken.”

Yangchen C Rinzin