Some NC members say its deemed dead

MB Subba

The Ministers and Equivalent Post Holders’ Entitlement Bill, which was introduced and passed by the 23rd session of the National Council (NC), seem to have died prematurely as the National Assembly (NA) has no plans to deliberate it.

The NA in the winter session had returned the Bill to NC without deliberating it on the ground that ministers and equivalent post holders’ entitlements were taken care of by parliament entitlement Act.

The NC had decided to seek the Supreme Court’s advice on the constitutionality of the National Assembly’s decision to reject the Bill without deliberation. The NC’s view was that Bills passed by one House should be deliberated by the other.

However, chairperson of NC’s legislative committee, Choining Dorji, said that the idea of seeking the Supreme Court’s interpretation was dropped as the two Houses had come to an understanding that the issue would be mutually solved.

“We thought that the issue should be resolved within the two House instead of going to the court. But we could not hold the meeting due to Covid-19,” he said.

A NC member said that the Bill was “deemed dead”. The legislative process, however, has not been exhausted.

No proper conclusion of the issue has been arrived at, as NC backtracked on its decision to seek the court’s interpretation. Some members and observers feel that a wrong precedent could be set if the issues on the constitutionality and legality of the NA’s refusal to deliberate the Bill remain unresolved.

Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel said that it was up to the NC to follow up on the Bill as the House of origin. “We (NA) don’t have plans to deliberate the Bill,” he said.

The Bill could not be considered a disputed Bill as the National Assembly had not deliberated on the content.

As per the legislative rules of procedure (LRoP), the Bill does not fit as a dead Bill. 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.

NC rues 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.

There are no clear legal provisions on how to go about a Bill that is passed by one House but rejected by the other without deliberation.

The Bill states that a national committee on the Entitlement of a Minister and Minister Equivalent Post Holder will be established. The committee, as per the Bill, will consist of seven members nominated by the Chief Justice of Bhutan, the Speaker and the NC Chairperson among others.

The committee shall review and recommend to the Pay Commission on the Entitlement of a Minister and Minister Equivalent Post Holder.

A minister or minister equivalent post holder is, upon his or her separation, entitled to a one-time vehicle quota, which exempts the custom duty and sales tax for the purchase of motor vehicle with 3000cc engine or less of any type and make. 

Or he or she can also get monetized amount in lieu of eligible vehicle quota.