The next hearing will be held on April 23

During a hearing at the High Court yesterday, the founder of Druk Gaki Tshogpa, Chheku Dukpa submitted that the grounds for the Election Commission of Bhutan’s (ECB) decision to deny registration for his party were not in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution and electoral laws.

Chheku Dukpa, also known as Jackson Dukpa, had moved court on March 23, stating that the ECB had denied registration despite his party fulfilling all the requirements.  He submitted to court that he had formed the party in the interest of democracy as a concerned citizen. He filed the registration papers with the ECB on February 9.

The ECB on February 16 issued a notification, citing irregularities in the names of party members, lack of potential candidates for all 47 constituencies, and lack of clarity concerning the party ideology.

“We had to seek justice from the court since we were not satisfied with the grounds the ECB cited to deny us registration,” he said, arguing that the laws regarding party registration are clear.

The ECB had stated that Druk Gaki Tshogpa did not have members in two constituencies.

However, Chheku Dukpa submitted to the Court that it was not necessary to have members in all 47 constituencies. He added that the Political Parties Rules 2015 only requires an aspiring political party to have members from all dzongkhags.

The party had submitted the names of 25 probable candidates only, which was one of the grounds for ECB to refuse registration.

The appellant, however, stated that neither the election Act nor the political parties rules demand the names of candidates for the purpose of registration.

The ECB also cited lack of clarity on the party ideology it had incorporated in the manifesto in the form of a poem.

“We submitted our ideology in the manifesto despite no such requirement,” Chheku Dukpa argued. “There is no mention about the ideology in the manifestos of other parties.”

ECB had also cited the party’s lack of preparedness to contest elections in the near future. The appellant argued that the ECB couldn’t decide a party’s ability to contest election or govern.

In his brief argument, the ECB’s senior legal officer Sonam Dorjee said that the registration application is subject to due scrutiny and review.

He said that the ECB, among other requirements, looks into whether the applicant party has probable candidates. “The decision was taken as per the law,” he said, adding that the commission was not satisfied with the credibility of the party.

The party had submitted a final list of 308 registered members, but the ECB stated that the names of 29 members were not found in the electoral roll.

In terms of the profile of candidates in the list that was submitted, ECB found that 20 were in the age group of 25 to 35 years and four between 35 to 45 years, and one was 46 years old.

The next and the last hearing would be held on April 23.

MB Subba