The National Council (NC) will propose amendment of the Civil Society Organisations (CSO) Act of Bhutan 2007 in the upcoming session.

Eminent member, Phuntsho Rapten, said the House would discuss eight issues from the Act.

He said the Act mandated the regulatory authority, CSO Authority, to monitor the activities of CSOs to ensure compliance with the Act and with their own Articles of Association or Charters, and the purposes for which they were established. “But CSO Authority was not strong enough to monitor CSOs in the country with limited human and capital resources.”

There are 53 registered and functional CSOs and about  25 new CSOs proposal with the authority.

Phuntsho Rapten said the number of CSOs needed in the country must also be studied.

He said that the members of CSOs justified that if there were more CSOs in the country, there would be more jobs and supplement the activities of the government.

He also said that while some people were sceptical about the amendment of the Act, the amendment was not to restrict the registration but to strengthen the Act. “As long as new proposals fulfil the existing criteria of the Act, they can register as a CSO.”

Phuntsho Rabten said the amendment would address, in a holistic manner, the functioning of CSOs, which would benefit communities and strengthen security of the nation.

He said that a major problem with CSOs was illegal fund-raising and the Act’s penalty provision was not uniform. “We are looking into making the penalty uniform.”

Section 121 of the Act states that a person or organisation shall be guilty of unlawful collection if the person or organisation collects any donation or charity without conforming to the provisions of the Act. The penalty for the offence shall be determined according to  value-based sentencing in accordance with the Penal Code of Bhutan.

Section 122 states that a person or institution shall be guilty of illegal fund raising if the person or organisation raises funds or solicits money or other property as a charity not in accordance with this Act. 

The offence shall be a petty misdemeanor. 

If the wrongdoer is an institution, the particular institution shall be fined or have its registration suspended or cancelled.

Section 123 states that any fund raised in an unauthorised manner shall be returned to the donors, or if the donors cannot be identified or contacted,  shall become the property of the government.

Phuntsho Rapten said these were some of the issues with the Act, which would be further discussed during the upcoming NC session. “We are also looking into how we can increase membership number from five for anyone wishing to register as a CSO.”

By Yangyel Lhaden

Edited by Tashi Dema