… believes NA rejected the Bill in violation of the Constitution

MB Subba

The National Council (NC) will seek the Supreme Court’s opinion on the constitutionality of the National Assembly’s recent decision to reject the Ministers and Equivalent Post Holders’ Entitlement Bill 2019.

The House of review is of the view that a Bill passed by one House must be deliberated by the other House. The NC had passed the Bill in its 23rd session and forwarded to the National Assembly.

“The National Assembly’s decision has violated the Constitution and the legislative rules of procedures (LRoP). We shall seek the apex court’s opinion to confirm our opinion,” the legislative committee chair, Choining Dorji, said.

He said that the same problem would arise in the future if the issues on the constitutionality and legality remain unresolved. Such a situation, he said, would also erode people’s faith in democracy.

The committee chair said that the rejection of Bills originating from the NC would raise questions on the upper house’s power to draft Bills.

The legislative committee reported that it weighed the option to submit the Bill to the Druk Gyalpo. But the problem was that it could not be considered a disputed Bill as the National Assembly had not deliberated on the content. 

As per the Constitution, the Bill would have been deemed passed had the National Assembly not returned it to the NC by the end of the session.

   It does not fit as a dead Bill either. As per the LRoP, a Bill becomes dead only if it fails to obtain the endorsement of not less than two-thirds of the total number of members of both the Houses present and voting in a joint sitting.

The committee chair cited Article 13(5) of the Constitution, which states “Where a Bill has been introduced and passed by one House, it shall present the Bill to the other House within 30 days from the date of passing and that Bill may be passed during the next session of Parliament.”

Members rued the waste of time and resources in drafting and passing of the bills. They said that it was the first instance where one House had rejected bills that had originated in the other house.

Eminent member, Phuntsho Rapten, said that the National Assembly’s decision was a matter of serious concern, as it would set a wrong precedent.

Deputy Chairperson Jigme Wangchuk said that the situation had come up due to non-compliance with the existing laws and rules by the National Assembly.

“We send issues to the Supreme Court only if it is difficult to be resolved by ourselves. It’s unfortunate that such as situation has come,” he said.

Member from Thimphu, Tshewang Rinzin, said that the House had to draft the Bill as the three successive governments did not take initiatives.


Impeachment Procedure Bill withdrawn

Similarly, the National Assembly earlier also rejected the Impeachment Procedure Bill 2019 without deliberating it.

But the House unanimously withdrew the impeachment Bill as recommended by the National Assembly. In the case, of the ministers’ entitlement Bill, the Assembly had not recommend for withdrawal.

The apex court’s opinion on the Ministers’ and Equivalent Post Holders’ Entitlement Bill 2019 is expected clarify the legality of the National Assembly’s decision on the impeachment Bill as well.

The impeachment Bill was also passed in the 23rd session and forwarded to the National Assembly.

Chairman of the natural resources and environment committee, Tashi Samdrup, said that the two houses needed to work together.

He informed that the government had justified that it was drafting a Bill on vote of no confidence against the government and that components of impeachment of constitutional post holders’ would be included in the Bill.

“But impeachment of constitutional post holders and no confidence motion are two different issues,” he said, citing Article 31(5) of the constitution, which states that procedure for impeachment, incorporating the principles of natural justice, shall be as laid down by law made by Parliament.

He said that the time and resources spent on the Bill would go to waste if the Bill is not taken up again. He said that the two houses should discuss to revive the Bill.

Member from Chukha, Sangay Dorji, supported the withdrawal of the impeachment Bill saying that it could be tabled again. He said that decisions of parliament should not be a marriage of convenience.

“We have to enact laws before we see problems,” he said.