HC to interview Bhutanese marrying foreigners from March 29

Marriage: The High Court will conduct the first interview to issue marriage certificate (MC) between a Bhutanese and foreigner spouse this month.

Of more than 600 applicants between 2010 and beginning of this year, 103 couples that submitted complete documents, qualified for the interview scheduled for March 29 and 30.

On November 4 last year, the Supreme Court Chief Justice ordered the High Court to process the MCs after the guidelines for issuance of MC between a Bhutanese and a foreigner spouse was framed.

The interview comes about five years after a moratorium on the issuance of MCs was put in place for want of proper guidelines. Issuance of MC between a Bhutanese and a foreigner was temporarily kept in abeyance due to issues connected with marriage of convenience.

High Court Acting Chief Justice Sangay Khando said with the guidelines for marriage between a Bhutanese and a foreigner endorsed, the High Court would conduct routine interviews quarterly every year hereafter.

A panel of three justices chaired by the Chief Justice of the High Court will interview the couples to prevent marriage of convenience.

The interview will broadly test the foreign spouse’s understanding of Bhutanese tradition and customs and Bhutan history.

“The panel would question couples individually,” Sangay Khando said. “We’d ask personal questions to strictly determine they are genuine couples.”

There is a separate MC application form for Bhutanese married to foreigners. They have to submit 13 other documents including a copy of a single status certificate issued to the foreign spouse by his or her respective public notary office and no objection certificate from the relatives of the Bhutanese, among others.

The single status certificate is required to prove that the foreigner spouse is not married in his or her country.

Once the High Court approves an MC application, applicants must appear in person, with their respective sureties, before the court of jurisdiction, which is the dzongkhag court where the Bhutanese spouse’s census is registered.

In case the couples cannot start the MC process within this period, they have to re-register with the High Court again.

Sangay Khando said that parties failing to file complete documents for the MC applications will have their applications dismissed.

“However, they can re-register themselves with the complete list of documents after a year,” he said.

In case the couple divorces, the foreigner spouse has to leave the country within a month.

Applicants would be prosecuted for fraudulent acts.

Section Kha 2-2 of the Marriage Act, 1980, states, “A non-Bhutanese wife or husband of a Bhutanese citizen intending to acquire a Bhutanese citizenship or to take up domicile in the Kingdom of Bhutan shall have to adopt the traditional customs and rituals of the country as laid down in the Citizenship Act and the rules promulgated by the government from time to time.”

According to the Marriage Act, a Bhutanese marrying a foreigner would be restricted for employment in the foreign and defence services.  The Bhutanese spouse would also be restricted from enjoying privileges such as land kidu, cash loans, medical treatment in foreign countries, seeds for fields and land and capital for workshops, trade and industries, among others.

Enjoying the privileges of studies and training under government sponsorship such as aided expenses is also restricted to Bhutanese marrying foreigners.

Tshering Palden