The fundamental duty of the parliament is legislation. Therefore, parliament is also known as legislative body or legislature. The news of confusion where the National Assembly (NA) decided not to deliberate two bills passed by the National Council (NC) is worrisome and waste of public resources. This issue may not attract much attention because it does not have immediate impact on the public as the current bills pertain only public servants. However, such trend and practice set a negative connotation on the relationship between the two houses and compromise their duty to nation.
The only issue in this case is, whether NA’s non-deliberation on bills already passed by NC amounts to rejection or something else. Article 13(7) and (9) collectively seems to provide a basic structure to resolve the differences between the two houses of the parliament. Article 13(7) mandates the parliament that, “Where the other House does not pass the Bill, that House shall return it to the House in which the Bill originated with amendments or objections for re-deliberation”. Thus, careful reading of this article, it indicates that, since NA decided not to deliberate the Bill, it fulfills the objectives of this Article and therefore, it does not mean, NA must deliberate to reject the Bill, because Bills were rejected in entirety. Further, it is mandatory on the part of NA to send it to the NC. The fact that, the Bills have been returned to NC, now it’s the NC’s job to consider that, these Bills were rejected by NA in entirety without any amendments. Art. 13 (9) mandates that, “Where the other House neither passes nor returns the Bill by the end of the next session, the Bill shall be deemed to have been passed by that House”. Neither the Legislative Rules of Procedure nor the Rules of Procedures of either House has provided clear provisions and therefore, the word “return” can mean returning the Bills with or without deliberations. The legislature must follow the principles of “statute must be read as whole” and not interpret each provision independently which can create more confusion.
Since, both the Houses being law making body, they have the liberty to amend any law. Thus, both NA and NC must immediately amend their respective ROPs or LROPs to solve their differences. Non-deliberation and merely returning of any Bills by either House set bad precedence. Political parties could take advantage of such loophole to suit their vested interest in future. This can also set a trend where either House may take retaliatory measures against the other, even if a Bill is important.
Members of both the Houses must remind themselves that, passing a Bill take huge public resources and that, House has spent enormous time to deliberate and pass law. Thus, outright rejection of the Bill on the account of not important must be adequately justified. Further, even though Regulatory Impact Assessment has been in place for years, neither of the House seem to use this tool effectively. If RIA is used, the issue of importance of any Bill can be evaluated well in advance and help prevent any sort of current differences between the two houses on the importance of any Bill. The two Houses of people’s representatives must avoid any form of differences and work together.
Sonam Tshering Lawyer, Thimphu
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.