Tashi Dema

With the show of hands, National Assembly (NA) members yesterday decided not to discuss the Impeachment Bill for the constitutional office bearers.

The bill was forwarded from National Council (NC) to set procedure for impeachment of the constitutional office bearers incorporating the principle of natural justice and to establish an impeachment investigation committee to conduct a thorough, fair and impartial investigation into allegations against them.

Chukha’s Bongo-Chapcha MP, Tshewang Lhamo, who is the chair of the legislative committee, introduced the bill to the members stating that during the 19th session of the second NC, the good governance committee submitted a motion to the house on the need of an Impeachment Bill to achieve good governance.

She said that while there were relevant laws to make public and civil servants accountable if they failed their duties, there was no basis to make constitutional office bearers accountable. “So in line with Article 32 of the Constitution, NC drafted the Impeachment Procedure Bill of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2019 for constitutional office bearers.”

It was Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering who first said that there was no need to discuss the bill, justifying that not all provisions of the Constitution is implemented.

He said that since Bhutan was different and all constitutional post holders were capable officials. “If there is someone to appoint him or her to the post, it might not be right for the parliamentarians to impeach them.”

Panbang MP Dorji Wangdi said there were 18 constitutional post holders, including 14 in judiciary, and it was necessary to impeach them if they did not fulfil their responsibilities.

He said that while the bill was returned to NC, NA should recommend the need for procedures to set the motion of no confidence votes against the government as per section 6 and 8 of Article 17 of the Constitution.

Home minister Sherub Gyeltshen was also against the discussion of the bill stating too many laws create problem in the country.

Only 15 of the 45 members wanted to discuss the bill.

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Bhutan, drangpons of Supreme Court, Chief Justice and drangpons of the High Court, Chief Election Commissioner, Auditor General, chairpersons of Royal Civil Service Commission and Anti-Corruption Commission are considered the constitutional office bearers.

The bill details the impeachment procedure including the grounds of impeachment, which are incapacity, incompetence and serious misconduct and motion for impeachment. “When both the houses pass the impeachment motion, the holder of constitutional office shall be suspended from his or her office until the outcome of the impeachment proceedings.”

It also sets the procedure for impeachment investigation committee, order of investigation and powers and functions of the committee. “The Parliament may, upon proper petition, order the concerned agencies to provide adequate protection to a complainant or witness if it is shown that his or her personal safety is in jeopardy because of his or her participation in an impeachment proceeding.”