Fourteen years after the Jabmi Act was enacted by the Parliament, one of the most critical elements of the Act has been constituted with the establishment of the Bar Council of Bhutan (Jabmi tshogdey) yesterday.

The Jabmi Act remained on paper until the amendment by the Parliament last year. It was amended to suit the changing needs and circumstances in the field of law.

The Bar Council constitutes seven members with an independent representative. Her Royal Highness Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck is the president and former Supreme Court justice Dasho Rinzin Gyeltshen is the vice president.

Seven members of the Bar Council were constituted as per the Section 3 of the Jabmi (Amendment) Act 2016, comprising of Attorney General Shera Lhendup as ex-officio member, Dasho Rinzin Gyeltshen and former High Court justice Sithar Namgye, Cheda of UC Associates (Bhutan Law Office), Jamyang Sherab of Garuda Legal Services, and Ugyen Dorji of UD & Partners.

The term for the Council members is three years.

Attorney General Shera Lhendup said that the independent representative has to be a person of high standing in the society as per the provision of Jabmi Act.

“Accordingly, the six members of the Bar Council invited HRH Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck to be the independent representative,” he said.

Attorney General said that as mandated by the Act, nominees from the Bar Council members filed their vote for the election of the president and the six members unanimously elected independent representative as the maiden president of the Bar Council in December last year.

Dasho Rinzin Gyeltshen has been elected as the vice president of the council to assist the president.

While inaugurating the Bar Council, HRH Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck, who is also the president of the Bhutan National Legal Institute, said that since the Bar Council is an important body  for rule of law, jabmi (legal counsel) is an integral part of the justice system.

“Therefore, the institution of the council is just and timely to uphold, promote and support jabmi’s profession,” she said.

The main functions of the Bar Council, among many, are to encourage and promote integrity, efficiency and responsibility of the private practicing lawyers; to determine cases of misconduct against private practicing lawyers; to promote legal education; to provide pro bono legal aid to indigent person; and to conduct selection examination for and maintain a role of private practicing lawyers.

Attorney General said that these functions aim to strengthen and promote the legal services in the private sector through a regulated Bar Association, whose members are the private practicing lawyers. Bar Council, he added, will facilitate the formation of Bar Association.

Jabmi tshogdey will regulate the practice of law by a lawyer or a paralegal and other practitioners.

Jabmi is a Bhutanese legal counsel who has been licensed to practice, including those who have been issued a licence before the enactment of the Jabmi Act.  A jabmi can hold a Bachelor of Laws degree from a recognised university and can enrol himself or herself with the jabmi tshogdey after passing the bar examination.

Many lawyers practicing privately, who attended the inaugural ceremony, welcomed the Bar Council.

“In absence of regulatory body, the private lawyers have to approach the High Court and seek approval for power of attorney to appear before the court as client’s legal representatives for every case,” private lawyer Tashi Delek said. “This is a time consuming and a waste of resources,” he said.

The Bar Council secretariat is temporary housed at the Office of Attorney General in Changangkha.

Rinzin Wangchuk