Are parliament resolutions laws? Are they binding?

These are the questions many asked when the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) last month terminated the contract of 74 gaydrungs in spite of a standing National Assembly (NA) resolution to retain the post.

The resolution, which states that the gaydrungs’ service should be regularised depending on its possibility, was one of the few significant outcomes of the first session of the third NA.

The former commission would have violated the parliamentary resolution if it were binding.

However, unlike an Act that is passed by both the Houses of parliament and granted assent by the Druk Gyalpo, parliament resolutions remain only on paper.

Parliament resolutions, except on legislative bills,  international conventions and protocals, are not necessarily binding. But parliamentarians agree that they must be taken seriously. The onus to implement the resolution, they say, falls on the executive or the relevant ministry.

National Assembly Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel, citing Article 20.7 of the Constitution, said, “Resolutions of the House are an expression of the will of the nation’s elected representatives, and they must be respected and treated seriously by the Government.”

He said parliament is the conscience of the people. “It is the institution through which the aspirations and interests of the people are communicated and fulfilled.”

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that the Cabinet shall be collectively responsible to the Druk Gyalpo and to Parliament.

Section 145 of the National Assembly Act, 2008 requires the house to forward a copy of the resolution to the minister concerned and Section 146 obliges the Minister concerned to inform the Parliament in the next session, if not earlier, of the action, taken by the Government on a resolution passed by the House.

National Council (NC) deputy chairperson Jigme Wangchuk also said such parliament resolutions are not legally binding on the executive and the RCSC. He reasoned that some of the resolutions of NA could be politically motivated.

A former NC member said not even Public Accounts Committee recommendations, which are passed by a joint sitting of Parliament, are law. He said that the executive, however, must take the recommendations seriously and provide justifications for not being able to implement the resolutions and that they should be accepted or rejected by the Parliament.

“Ruling MPs must not project themselves as executives but as people’s representative,” he said, adding that any parliament resolution can be converted into law for compliance.

However, Opposition MP and spokesperson Dorji Wangdi believes that the resolution issued by NA on issues like the one on gaydrung, has to be final and binding.

The resolution on the gaydrung is not an exception. The resolution of the second NA passed in May 2017, which states that Zhemgang would get a college in the 12th Plan has also been ignored. The new government did not allocate budget for the proposed college in the 12th Plan.

Education Minister JB Rai at the last winter session of the NA explained that there were no plans to establish a college in Zhemgang during its tenure. The proposal to set up a college in what has been described as one of the poorest dzongkhags in the country had come from the Dzongkhag Tshogdu.

Similarly, NA’s decision asking the government to open additional entry points for regional tourists at Samdrupjongkhar, Gelephu, Samtse, Nanglam and Panbang is another example of a resolution that may not be implemented in the spirit of the resolution.

In an earlier press conference, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said the government had passed it only in principle. This means there is neither a deadline to implement the resolution, nor a guarantee that it will ever be implemented.

A former NC member questioned the rationale behind passing resolutions if they are not binding.

“Actually resolutions passed by the Parliament remains valid unless they are overturned by the next parliament with valid justifications,” he said. He reasoned that Parliament could pass several resolutions simply to please voters.


Home ministry’s circular

Home Minister Sherub Gyeltshen said the 74 gaydrungs that the RCSC relieved could continue to serve based on the home ministry’s order to extend their service until June. “We haven’t discussed the issue in the Cabinet formally. But since the letter is issued as per the NA resolution, it is valid,” he said.

He explained that the only difference is that the 74 gaydrungs are no more under the purview of the RCSC. The gaydrungs, he said would join the category of the remaining 199 gaydrungs who were not under the RCSC, but under the purview of the home ministry.

“I don’t think it’s illegal to keep them in service even if the RCSC has relieved them,” he said.

The home minister said that the service of gaydrung has become more relevant with increased budget (50 percent) for local governments in the 12th Plan. However, lyonpo said that no final decision has been taken.

The home ministry, he said, is working on a terms of reference (ToR) for gaydrungs and that the contract would be renewed once it is endorsed.

The home ministry on March 5, a day before the 74 gaydrungs’ contract expired, issued an office order extending the contract by three months so that the government could carry out a study on how to resolve the issue. The former commission did not extend the contract, saying that it did not receive any orders from the cabinet.

The decision to relieve the gaydrungs was in line with the recommendations of an organisational development exercise. Gewogs leaders, however, have been insisting that gaydrungs, administrative assistants, who are appointed on contract by RCSC, is an important part of the local government machinery.

The contract had expired in 2016 but the PDP government decided to extend it by two years after requests from local governments. The local government act does not recognise the post of gaydrungs.

An opposition MP said whether or not the post is mentioned in the Act would not matter. He said the Parliament had taken cognizance of the issue, debated extensively and in the best interest of local governance and people resolved to retain the post.

However, a former NC member said that gaydrungs are practically not required if gewogs utilise the mangmis, saying that they were recruited when there were no mangmis and gewog administration officers.

MB Subba