Tshering Palden 

National Council is likely to seek His Majesty’s consent to hold a Joint Sitting of the Parliament after none of the members opposed the proposal of Natural Resources and Environment Committee (NREC) to table the Impeachment Procedure Bill of Bhutan 2019 at the Joint Sitting yesterday.

The committee tabled the proposal during the deliberation of the Bill yesterday. 

The Legislative Committee of the National Assembly introduced the Bill in the House on January 16. Of the 45 members present in the National Assembly, 30 members did not want to discuss the bill. Some members spoke in favour of deliberating on the Bill saying that the of 18 constitutional post holders, including 14 in the judiciary, it would be necessary to impeach them if they did not fulfil their responsibilities.

Upon receiving the Bill from the NA, the House directed the NREC to review the Bill for re-deliberation.

The committee presented the objections received from the National Assembly (NA) with its observations and recommendations.

The chairperson to the Committee, Tashi Samdrup said that the National Assembly’s objections to the Bill were on the principle and not on the provisions in the Bill. The committee, he said, did not find them substantial.

The NA returned the Bill to National Council with three grounds for not deliberating it in the House.

The NA acknowledged that the Bill was drafted with appropriate justifications in accordance with the Constitution. “However, all the provision of the Constitution are not made in to separate laws and therefore, the NA assembly requests the NC to introduce the Bill at an appropriate time in the future as per requirement,” the NA wrote to other House.

National Assembly in its justification for not deliberating the Bill stated that it was considered inappropriate at the moment as the constitutional offices are all capable persons selected for best candidates and appointed by His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo. “If the holders of the constitutional offices are to be impeached on the basis of law, it poses a risk of contravening with our old age tradition.”

The NA was of the view that the Bill be drafted and consolidated with a provision of no-confidence votes against the government in future and at an appropriate time.

This ground was irrelevant. “The no-confidence vote against the government was not the business of National Council,” a member said.

The NREC committee proposed to evoke the Constitution provision of joint sitting of the Parliament for the Bill under Article 13 (8) which states that “Where the House in which the Bill originated refuses to incorporate such amendments or objections of the other House, it shall submit the Bill to the Druk Gyalpo, who shall then command the Houses to deliberate and vote on the Bill in a joint sitting.”

Most of the members spoke in support of the committee’s recommendations and stressed that the legislation was needed to hold the constitutional offices accountable for a vibrant democracy.

Members also said that the Bill was enacted not to punish the constitutional post holders but to have established law like every public and civil servant for the convenient of the post holders. “During the consultation, even those holding the constitutional posts said that the Bill was timely and very much required,” a member said.

Members said that the utter disregard for the efforts of the committees in both the Houses that worked on the Bill for months was entirely uncalled for. 

The House directed the committee to prepare the Bill for the final adoption making changes as required.  

Constitutional office bearers include Chief Election Commissioner, Auditor General, chairpersons of Royal Civil Service Commission and Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Bill contains the impeachment procedure including the grounds of impeachment, which are incapacity, incompetence and serious misconduct and motion for impeachment. “When both the houses pass the impeachment motion, the holder of the constitutional office shall be suspended from his or her office until the outcome of the impeachment proceedings.”

It also sets the procedure for impeachment investigation committee, powers and functions of the committee, and the order of investigation.

“The Parliament may, upon proper petition, order the concerned agencies to provide adequate protection to a complainant or witness if it is shown that his or her personal safety is in jeopardy because of his or her participation in an impeachment proceeding.”