Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering has indicated that his government would continue working with incumbent Attorney General Shera Lhendup even though he was appointed by the former government.
The sole authority to pick an Attorney General, whose appointment is considered a political appointment, vests with the prime minister. Shera Lhendup was appointed on May 22, 2015 and has about a year and seven months to complete five years in office.
However, Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering on December 14 at the Friday Meet said that he had no intentions to replace the incumbent Attorney General. He said the government would refrain from making an appointment that will divide the country along party lines.
The prime minister said that the government would talk about the matter when he completes his five-year term.
Dr Lotay Tshering said he would be happy with anybody doing the job as far as he or she works in line with the prescribed terms and conditions.
“If Attorney General Dasho Shera does a good job, we don’t have any problem. We are soft, mild and happy with whatever is happening now,” he said.
The prime minister, however, also said that the government would not hesitate to take bold decisions whenever required. “But we will also be equally tough and bold to take any bold decisions if required,” he said.
The Office of Attorney General Act 2015 states that the Attorney General should not have political affiliations. The Attorney General is accountable to the Druk Gyalpo and to the prime minister.
In his book “The Constitution of Bhutan – Principles and Philosophies”, former Chief Justice and Chairman of the Constitution drafting committee, Sonam Tobgye states that the prime minister can nominate a candidate for Attorney General without consultation. He explains that if a case is being filed against the prime minister, and if another authority than prime minister appoints the Attorney General, he may not energetically and impartially represent the Executive branch.
He states that the Attorney General is a direct political nominee of the prime minister. “It is a common practice for an Attorney General to serve at the pleasure of the prime minister and he resigns when the prime minister vacates the office,” he writes.
The Constitution does not prescribe a term for the Attorney General. But the Office of Attorney General Act 2015 states that the tenure of an Attorney General will be five years or until attaining the age of sixty-five years, whichever is earlier.
The Attorney General may be eligible for reappointment, subject to a maximum of two terms, according to the Act. The Attorney General shall be paid salary and benefits equivalent to Justices of the Supreme Court, provided that the salary and benefits shall not be varied to his or her disadvantage.
The Attorney General as the chief legal officer shall be the legal advisor to and legal representative of the government.