Thinley Namgay   

The Joint Sitting of the Parliament adopted all 151 sections of the historic National Digital Identity (NDI) Bill of Bhutan 2023 yesterday marking a significant step towards digital transformation in the country.   

All 67 members present voted in favour of the Bill. As of yesterday, there were two debated clauses between the two houses of the parliament.    

However, the 12-member Joint Committee consisting of five members from the National Council (NC) and seven members from the National Assembly deliberated on the disputed clauses between July 4-5. Officials from The Government Technology (GovTech) Agency were also involved in the discussion.   

The NC recommended instituting a new section after section 10 which says that the NDI company shall be a public limited company with all the shares owned by Druk Holding and Investments Limited. However, the Joint Committee revoked it, and members also supported the move yesterday. 

Joint Committee’s Chairperson, Khatoe-Laya MP Tenzin said that the committee had to revoke it as section 11 of the Bill clearly stated an “NDI company” which would carry out all the mandates of the Bill.  Chairperson also said the budget has been already allocated.  

Tenzin said the parliament already endorsed Chapter Two of the Bill on Institutional Framework and Chapter Five on Digital Credentials, which would also address the recommendation of the NC.  

The NC also proposed a new section before section 128 which states, “The offences and penalties prescribed in this Chapter shall be by the Penal Code of Bhutan.” But the Joint Committee decided against it. 

However, Chairperson Tenzin mentioned that sections 128 to 135 of the Bill comprised all penalties related to digital aspects of the current situation which were not even present in the Penal Code of Bhutan 2004.   

The chairperson said that there is room for further amendment in the future, if necessary.   

The National Digital Identity Act aims to create equal opportunities for all persons through inclusive services that are accessible without discrimination and achieve the national goals of the well-being of the people, progress, and prosperity for the nation through technology. 

His Royal Highness Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck became Bhutan’s first digital citizen on February 21 this year launching the NDI. 

The Bill will be submitted to His Majesty the King for the Royal Assent.