Bhutanese could soon be able to file complaints against judges or court personnel on the grounds of irresponsibility.

The judiciary will adopt the Judicial Responsibility and Accountability Regulations during the annual judicial conference that begins from Friday.
The regulation provides for the process of initiating a complaint, investigation, and possible actions that can be taken against judicial personnel.

“Judicial accountability is equally important with regards to maintaining its credibility,” the recently launched annual judicial report 2016 states.

In view of the fact that the legitimacy of the judiciary flows from public support and trust, transparency in the functioning of the judges and judicial staff coupled with their accountability for any disservice to the court users, is required.

Like in previous years, monetary and matrimonial cases top the list of cases registered with courts across the country. Of the 7,910 cases registered with the courts in 2016, 3,007 and 1,420 were monetary and matrimonial cases respectively. Of the total, 7,783 cases were decided including 1,495 pending cases from 2015. Thimphu and Phuentsholing courts registered the most number of cases.

Matrimonial cases slumped threefold in the past four years from 4,393 cases. There is a visible reduction in the number of cases in 2016 as the data on marriage certificates and other miscellaneous matters were recorded separately.

With the increase in cases, the pending cases also increased. From 1,054 pending cases in 2012 to 1,355 in 2014, 1,622 cases remained pending in the courts last year.

The judges attending legal education programmes, official functions, and occasional travel abroad to attend meetings, workshops, and seminars distracted them from attending to cases. The cases also remained pending due to the time taken for forensic reports, parties not reporting on time, and parties missing, among others.

The report points out numerous challenges, including lack of budget.

The judiciary pointed out that much of the public don’t know or understand the operation of the court system. This poses a risk of creating confusion and misunderstanding amongst the general public.

“It leads to our people being unaware of their rights guaranteed by different laws, and also the procedures of filing and proceedings of a case,” the report states.

Except in a few urban centres, most places have litigants appearing in court. Therefore, it poses the challenge of litigants not being aware of the court procedures and failure to correctly state the facts and issues before the courts.

“It’s important that legal information are disseminated adequately and the people are made aware of the enacted laws and court procedures. Adequate awareness of the laws and processes could help in efficient delivery of justice and in also enhancing the trust and confidence of the people in the justice system,” the report states.

The judicial conference is also expected to endorse the guidelines and procedures associated with contentious issues of conflict of interest.
The judiciary is also expected to endorse the Child Bench Book.

The judiciary also launched special benches for children, Private Money Lending Regulation, and e-services such as applying for marriage certificates, attestation of documents, among others in 2016.

Tshering Palden