The National Assembly yesterday decided to deliberate the Royal Bhutan Police (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021 in the next session this winter.

The Bill was, however, forwarded to the social and cultural committee for review.

Submitting the principles and objectives of the Bill, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, who represented the home ministry, said the amendment is to treat Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) at par with Royal Bhutan Army (RBA) and Royal Body Guards (RBG) in terms of rank structure, appointment, promotion and removal, positions, tenure and salary, allowances, benefits and other emoluments.

He also said that Article 28 of the Constitution treats both RBA and RBP as important parts of the nation’s security forces. “So it is important to treat them at par.”

Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said that the amendment of the Bill would strengthen the police force and professionalise it. “The amendment will also harmonise many inconsistent provisions in the existing Act.”

He said that RBP introduced many rehabilitation, and reformative or reintegration programmes for prisoners, which were not clear in the existing Act. “The amendment will ensure the programmes are reflected in the Act.”

The minister also said that in the Act, any police personnel involved in any criminal case is terminated. “The amendment will state that any police personnel involved in criminal cases shall be charged before a Court of law and if convicted for misdemeanour and above shall be terminated from services from the date of conviction.”

He said some cases are minor and the punishment could be administrative action.

He also said that there are civilians working in RBP, who are either appointed by the Royal Civil Service Commission or recruited by the Royal Bhutan Police. “Through the amendment, they shall be referred to as police general service cadre and the Police Service Board would recommend their emoluments and entitlements.”

Other provisions for amendment include about 17 provisions of the Police Act 2009, organising structures under the Chief of Police, and having separate detentions in all police stations for male, female, and minor.

Sources said that police and RBA and RBG personnel have the same salary, allowances, benefits as of now but the only difference is that the existing Act mandates pay commission to decide the salary for police. “But that is only on paper. In reality, police get all the benefits like RBA and RBG,” an official said.

The 17 clauses proposed for repeal in the Bill includes section 16, 18, 19, 25, 26, 164, 165, 166, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, 186 and section 192 of the Police Act 2009.

Opposition Leader, Dorji Wangdi, proposed the possibility of delinking prison administration and fire services from police.

He said RBP’s main mandate is to maintain law and order and prevent crime.

Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji, however, objected to the proposal, saying a small country does not need many organisations.

Athang-Thedtsho’s Member of Parliament (MP), Kinley Wangchuk, highlighted the importance of educating police to use a civilian approach.

He said while amending the Bill, it is important to discuss improving the education and skills of police and not just on entitlements.

Lhuentse’s Gangzur-Minjey MP Kinga Penjor also said the amendment should discuss improving communication skills and basic law knowledge of police personnel and building their investigation capacity.

Meanwhile, sources have said that section 28 of the Constitution also states police shall, as a trained uniform force under the Ministry of Home Affairs, be primarily responsible for maintaining law and order and prevention of crime.

“RBA is an independent organisation with different mandates and MPs have to see if the two organisations could be treated at par,” a source said.

The source also cited section 166 of the existing Act, which states a police person shall be entitled to service benefits and allowances prescribed in the rules and regulations made under this Act, which will be at par with RBA and RBG. “The amendment proposes to repeal this section and insert a new one, which is not much different.”

By Tashi Dema