The just-concluded three-day Annual General Meeting of the Bar Council brought together key stakeholders from the judiciary, law enforcement, prosecution, and anti-corruption agencies. This convergence afforded a pivotal opportunity to address pressing issues impacting the delivery of justice in our nation.

The Jabmis highlighted numerous discrepancies between courts, investigating agencies, prosecutors, inter-agency discrepancies as well as ethical issues concerning Jabmis. The concerns ranged from the appeal process, security checks in courts, investigating agencies not adhering to established laws and procedures, limited timeframe for filing complete appeal petitions, potential biases against Jabmis, and the imposition of liabilities on Jabmis.

They also raised concerns about courts refusing to register cases involving defendants not physically present in Bhutan, thereby impeding access to justice. The mandatory submission of every petition in Dzongkha, despite legal principles being derived from the Common Law System and parties’ ability to understand English, was perceived as a potential hindrance to justice. Jabmis unanimously reiterated their role as officers of the court, assisting in reaching the truth by arguing facts, producing evidence, and analyzing laws.

Further, it was agreed that access to justice, a cornerstone of our legal system, is being impeded by certain procedural barriers. For instance, some courts refuse to register cases if the defendant is not physically present in Bhutan, effectively denying plaintiffs their inherent right to sue and seek redress. Concerns were raised on convictions solely based on confessions alone.  It also concerns if the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is established merely by confessions as confessions are not evidence but just statements, more of circumstantial evidence.

Further, the AGM reiterated that Jabmis were officers of the court. Jabmis play a crucial role in upholding the integrity of our justice system. Their voices must be heeded, and their concerns addressed with urgency and diligence. Consistency in judicial proceedings is paramount to ensuring due process and the rule of law, principles enshrined in our Constitution.

The AGM discussed the Code of Ethics, addressing duties to the self, court, clients, and public. Concerns over ethical breaches among Jabmis were noted based on Bar’s disciplinary actions. As the court’s torchbearers, Jabmis must uphold the highest ethics, integrity, and avoid unethical conduct. Reports revealed that there were instances of Jabmis refusing to provide services after taking fees, failure to declare conflict of interest, representing without Jabmi Certificate or charging fees based on outcome of the case. To address such issues, the AGM proposed a comprehensive Code of Ethics to ensure that Jabmis uphold the high standards of ethical behavior and integrity. This meeting also proposed to amend the Jabmi to respond to emerging issues.

Jabmis play an important role in ensuring justice. But the bug stops at the Judiciary as it determines the ultimate justice. Example, Courts ordering police to release arbitrarily detained persons must be immediately obeyed. As reiterated by the  President of the Bar Council during the opening, we must work together and collectively ensure justice for those seeking justice and build confidence in the system, ensuring that our nation’s legal system upholds the highest standards of fairness, integrity, and respect for the rule of law. Justice must be done both in means and end. The “justice must not only be done, but it must also be seen to be done”.


Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.