Phurpa Lhamo 

Members of the National Council (NC) will further discuss whether the Royal Bhutan Police should prosecute cases.

This came after much deliberation at the 6th sitting of the 29th NC session on the Royal Bhutan Police (Amendment) Bill of Bhutan 2021 yesterday.

Section 41(c) of the initial Bill stated that the duties of the Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) shall be to take lawful measures to detect cases, identify offenders and where appropriate, apprehend offenders, investigate, chargesheet and prosecute in subsequent court proceedings.

However, the proposed amendment from the National Assembly members stated that the duties of the RBP shall be to detect cases, identify offenders and where appropriate, apprehend offenders, investigate and forward the cases to the Office of Attorney General for prosecution; charge sheet and prosecute in subsequent.

During the deliberation at the NC yesterday, many NC members objected forwarding cases to OAG.

The discussion also included the proposal to repeal Section 71 of the Bill, which stated that the RBP shall have the power to prosecute any person for any criminal offence other than misdemeanour and above was also deliberated.

The members suggested that because the two sections complemented and were in line with each other, the members suggested that if Section 41 (c) isn’t amended, then Section 71 also not be repealed.

Gasa’s NC member, Dorji Khandu, said that before the decision to shift the prosecution responsibility of crimes rated petty misdemeanour and below to OAG from the RBP, it was important to understand if OAG had enough staff to manage the work.

He added that because of lack of OAG offices in dzongkhags other than Thimphu, the change in prosecution would affect the people.

Concerns over already crowded detention centres were also raised.

Lhuntse’s NC member, Tempa Dorji, said that in 2017, the police had prosecuted about 4,000 cases, about 4,300 cases in 2018, and about 4,085 cases in 2019. “OAG prosecuted 929 cases in 2020 and more than 1,000 cases in 2021.”

He said that RCSC clarified that between 30 and 50 percent additional workforce would be needed to what is available to carry the additional responsibilities, but these additional staff could only be deployed in the next two years.

A member also said that only 11 dzongkhags had a legal officer.

Other concerns of conflict of interest over RBP investigating and also prosecuting the cases was also raised.

After much deliberation, the members concluded that more internal discussions would be held to decide the matter.